BBC crime podcast delves into Duke of Buccleuch's stolen Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece Madonna of the Yarnwinder
A crime podcast that uncovers the story behind a plot to steal a Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece from the Duke of Buccleuch has hit half a million downloads just two weeks on from its release.
BBC Sounds series The Missing Madonna focuses on the theft of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder, which was snatched from the wall of the ninth Duke’s Drumlanrig Castle by paying guests in 2003. The family also has a seat at Boughton House near Kettering.
For the Duke, John Scott, who died four years after the theft, it was a devastating act that sparked a paranoia that forced him to move other works of art out of view of visitors.
Presented by scouser Olivia Graham, whose own family was irreversibly changed by the theft, the fascinating series examines the circumstances leading up to the theft of the artwork and the subsequent efforts to get it returned to its rightful owner.
The compelling tale, brimming with twists, turns and double-crosses, begins with two men posing as tourists, overpowering a Drumlanrig Castle guide, snatching the multi-million-pound masterpiece and fleeing the scene in a battered white Volkswagen Golf.
Despite a high-profile investigation involving the FBI, plus the promise of a substantial reward, the painting disappeared into the criminal underworld. The Duke of Buccleuch, could only wait and hope.
Four years later, the masterpiece appeared to resurface on Merseyside when a mysterious man walked into a Liverpool pub and asked to speak to the two men behind the website StolenStuffReunited.com
Those two men were Robbie Graham and Jack Doyle - friends and business partners who ran their own PI firm, Crown Private Investigations, in addition to their website. Sensing an opportunity to do something truly historic and collect a big reward, Robbie and Jackie assembled a crack team to help them get the painting back.
For a while it seemed as if everything was progressing well, but after a series of dramatic twists, including a nervy meeting in a village pub car park, the two private investigators were faced with an outcome they never could have predicted.
The Missing Madonna is told by Olivia, daughter of Robbie Graham. It features interviews with some of the main players in this real-life drama, as well as experts in the field of recovering stolen artwork. Olivia travels across England and Scotland to piece together a story that hit the headlines on more than one occasion, and had a huge – and lasting - impact on her family.
Gareth Hydes, commissioning editor for BBC Scotland said: “This series vividly brings to life one of the most remarkable stories from the art world. It has the classic ingredients of a thriller – plot twists, intrigue, jeopardy and larger-than-life characters. The series will take the audience on a gripping journey, revisiting scenes which are crucial to the story and hearing from many of those who were involved in the drama.”
The entire series is available to download now on BBC Sounds.