Stolen Da Vinci painting recovered

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The Independent Online

A £15m Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece stolen from a Scottish castle four years ago was recovered yesterday. Detectives from four crime enforcement agencies were involved in locating The Madonna With The Yarnwinder, which was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle, in Dumfries and Galloway, in 2003.

The painting belonged to the Duke of Buccleuch, who died last month at the age of 83. He was devastated when thieves stole his 16th-century masterpiece. Until now, attempts to recover it had failed despite the offer of a £1m reward.

Police, acting on intelligence, intercepted a meeting of five people in central Glasgow at about 11am yesterday. The stolen painting was recovered at the scene. Four men were arrested and will appear in court today.

Officers refused to confirm further details but it is understood that a deal for the sale of the Da Vinci may have been under negotiation.

Detective Chief Inspector Mickey Dalgleish, said: "We are extremely pleased to recover the painting. For four years, police have worked tirelessly on the theft and, with help from the public we have been able to track down and locate the painting."

A spokesman for Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary said the inquiry was "fast moving" and that the other agencies involved were the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and Strathclyde Police.

The theft from the duke's ancestral home four years ago sparked a huge manhunt. In what was regarded as a particularly audacious robbery, the thieves had arrived with other members of the public when the castle opened in the morning and escaped after snatching the painting, which measures 19 inches by 14 inches, from a wall.

During the raid, two men overpowered a female guide and fled the scene in a white VW Golf, which was later found abandoned three miles away.

At the time, the duke's son, Richard, the Earl of Dalkeith, described the picture as "a work of great serenity and beauty" and said: " We are very shocked and deeply distressed by this theft.

"The painting has been in our family since the middle of the 18th century. The National Gallery of Scotland has confirmed it was created in Da Vinci's workshop in the early 16th century and is largely by the famous artist himself."

Police believe the thieves must have known exactly what they wanted and where it was hung. The art collection at Drumlanrig Castle was amassed by the late duke, who was confined to a wheelchair after breaking his back in a riding accident in 1971.

The theft of the masterpiece sparked a worldwide search, with the FBI putting the painting on its list of 10 most wanted pieces of stolen artwork.