Theft of the Jules Rimet Trophy
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The Jules Rimet Trophy, awarded to the winner of the football World Cup, was stolen in 1966 prior to the 1966 FIFA World Cup in England. The trophy was later recovered. One man was convicted for being involved but other possible culprits are still unknown.
Trophy placed in an exhibition
The Football Association had received the trophy in January 1966 before the scheduled World Cup tournament the next July. It was usually kept in their headquarters at Lancaster Gate apart from for a couple of publicity events. In February, Stanley Gibbons' stamp company received permission to place the Trophy in their Stampex exhibition in March in condition that it would be under guard at all times. The trophy was also insured for £30,000 (despite its official value being only £3,000).
The exhibition was kept in the Westminster Central Hall and opened on 19 March 1966, and the World Cup was a major attraction. Two uniformed officers guarded the trophy around the clock, reinforced by two plainclothes officers during the day. Additional guards stood beside the display cabinet when the exhibition was open, but nobody was watching the trophy all the time. On Sundays the Central Hall was used for Methodist services.
On Sunday 20 March, when the guards began a noon circuit, around 12:10 they noticed that someone had forced open the display case and the rear doors of the building and stolen the trophy. The wooden bar that held the door closed was lying on the floor; thieves had removed the screws and bolts that held it from the other side of the door. They had removed the padlock from the back of the display case, taken the trophy and left the way they came. None of the guards had seen or heard anything suspicious, though one of them reported that he had seen a strange man by the public telephone when he had visited the lavatory on the first floor.
Scotland Yard took control of the case and gave it to the Flying Squad. Officers interviewed the guards and two maintenance workers. One of the churchgoers had also noticed a man and gave a different description. The story went public across the world over the next day. Police had begun to look for two potential suspects but the description the newspapers gave did not correspond to the either one of the men the witnesses had seen.
On Monday 21 March, Joe Mears, the Chairman of the Football Association, received an anonymous phone call. The unknown man said that he would receive a parcel at Chelsea Football Club the next day. The parcel was delivered to Mears' home. It contained the removable lining from the top of the trophy and a ransom note that demanded £15,000 in £1 and £5 notes. The letter stated that FA should place a coded ad in the Personals Column of The Evening News. If they would follow the further instructions, they could get the trophy back by Friday. Otherwise, or if the FA informed the police or the press, the thieves would melt the trophy. Shortly afterwards Mears received another call – man who identified himself as "Jackson" changed the instructions to £5 and £10 notes.
Despite the warnings, Mears contacted the police, met Detective Inspector Charles Buggy of the Flying Squad and gave the lining and the letter to him. Police told Mears to place the ad on 24 March, and contacted a bank that created a false ransom payment out of bundles of ordinary paper, with real money only at the top and bottom, that were placed in a suitcase. Two police officers were to act as Mears' assistants in handing the money over and went to Mears' home to wait for the next call.
Mears was suffering from an asthma attack so his wife answered instead and gave the phone to the "assistant McPhee" (who was DI Buggy). "Jackson" was nervous but finally agreed to arrange a switch and told "McPhee" to come to the Battersea Park to meet him at the gate.
Buggy drove to the Park, followed by a number of unmarked Flying Squad vehicles, and met "Jackson". Buggy showed him the suitcase and Jackson failed to notice that most of the money was scrap paper. Buggy insisted on seeing the trophy before handing over the money and said he feared that somebody would try to rob him. Jackson stepped into Buggy's car and agreed to lead him to the trophy.
On the way Jackson noticed the Flying Squad van that followed them and got nervous. At traffic light in the Kennington Park Road he told Buggy to stop and said he was going to get the trophy. When he walked away, the van stopped him and he disappeared around the corner. When Buggy intended to follow him, he reappeared and Buggy told him to get back to the car. Soon after Jackson jumped off the moving vehicle and ran away. Buggy pursued him first with a car and then on foot until he captured him in a house garden, revealed that he was a police officer and arrested him. Other officers came to escort Jackson back to Kennington police station.
At the station police recognized that 'Jackson' was Edward Betchley, a petty thief and used car dealer who had been convicted of theft and receiving stolen goods. Betchley denied that he had stolen the cup and claimed that he could retrieve it if he was granted bail, which was denied. He was formally charged with the theft of the trophy and breaking and entering. Betchley claimed that someone he knew only as "The Pole" had offered him £500 to act as a middleman. Mrs Coombes, who had seen a strange man in the Central Hall, identified him but the security guard did not recognize him.
Recovery of the trophy
On 27 March David Corbett and his dog Pickles were walking in the Beulah Hill district of South East London, when Pickles begun to sniff at a parcel that was lying under the hedge of Corbett's house. It was wrapped in an old newspaper, tied with string. When he opened the parcel, he recognized the trophy when he noticed the winner's names on the bottom. He handed the parcel to the police in the Gypsy Hill police station.
Police took Corbett and the trophy to Cannon Row police station where Harold Mayes of the FA identified the trophy. Police briefly suspected that Corbett was involved with the theft but he had an alibi.
Police announced the recovery of the trophy the next morning but retained the Cup as evidence until 18 April. They returned it to the FA before the opening of the tournament.
Pickles briefly became a celebrity, and appeared on TV and in some movies. David Corbett attended the player's celebration dinner after the World Cup Final, and later received rewards totaling £6. The Football Association made a replica of the trophy for public celebrations.
In 1970, Brazil received the Jules Rimet Trophy in perpetuity after winning the World Cup for a third time. In 1983, the trophy was once again stolen. It is believed, but unconfirmed, that the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen by three thieves and later broken apiece and melted into gold bars. As of 2014, the trophy has not been recovered. Instead, a replica of the Jules Rimet Trophy was presented to the CBF in 1984.
- Martin Atherton – England loses the World Cup (History Today June 2006)