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Solicitor in Da Vinci trial to face SDT

27 April 2010

Marshall Ronald, a Lancashire solicitor described in court as a ‘Walter Mitty’ character, has been cleared of attempting to extort £4.25m for the safe return of a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci at the High Court in Edinburgh.

It is estimated that The Madonna of the Yardwinder, owned by the Duke of Buccleuch, is worth anything from £30m to £50m. It was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle in 2003.

Robbers used an axe to remove the painting from the walls of the castle near Dumfries during a guided tour and made off with it in the back of a Volkswagen Golf.

They have not been traced but when the painting was brought to the Glasgow offices of law firm HBJ Gateley Wareing, police seized it and arrested five men.

One of them was Marshall Ronald, who is understood to have run a sole practice from his garage in Skelmersdale before it was closed in August 2008 by the SRA.

A spokesman for the SRA said: “The grounds for the intervention were suspected dishonesty and breaches of the Solicitors Accounts Rules. The Dumfries and Galloway Police took possession of most of the practice papers.”

The spokesman said that Ronald’s PC was suspended at the time and confirmed that he had been referred to the SDT, although the date of the hearing had not been fixed and could be next year.

Two former partners at HBJ Gateley Wareing, David Boyce and Calum Jones, were found not guilty of trying to extort money for the return of the painting. The verdicts against Ronald and two private investigators were “not proven”.

The investigators suggested after the verdict that they were entitled to a reward.

The ninth Duke of Buccleuch died a month before the painting was recovered. It is now owned by the Buccleuch Heritage Trust but is on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. It shows the Madonna with baby Jesus holding a cross-shaped wooden yardwinder.

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