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 silver-gilt 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 on 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 held 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 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 Mears 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 the FA should place a coded ad in the personal Ads column of The Evening News. If they followed 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 down. Shortly afterwards Mears received another call – a 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 trophy 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, which were placed in a suitcase. Two police officers were to act as Mears' assistants in handing the money over and went to his 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 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 a traffic light in Kennington Park Road, he told Buggy to stop and said he was going to get the trophy. When he walked away, the van stopped Jackson 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 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 southeast 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 at Gipsy 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 players' celebration dinner after the World Cup Final, and later received rewards totaling £6,000. The Football Association made a replica of the trophy for public celebrations.
Theft in Brazil
In 1970, Brazil received the Jules Rimet Trophy in perpetuity after winning the World Cup for a third time, but in 1983 the trophy was again stolen. A banker and football club agent (although the club, Clube Atlético Mineiro, denies his employment) called Sérgio Pereira Ayres (also known as "Sérgio Peralta") was the mastermind of the theft. Peralta engaged two other men, an ex-police officer called Francisco Rivera (a.k.a. "Chico Barbudo") and a decorator, José Luiz Vieira (a.k.a. "Luiz Bigode"). The two men entered the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF)'s building and, after incapacitating the nightwatchman, stole the trophy and two other trophies, "Equitativa" and "Jurrito". A safecracker, Antonio Setta (a.k.a. "Broa"), revealed that Peralta had also approached him for the job, but he refused out of patriotism and because his brother had died of a heart attack when Brazil won the Jules Rimet Trophy.
Peralta and the rest of the suspects were arrested, and it was claimed that the trophy was melted into gold bars by Juan Carlos Hernández, an Argentine gold dealer. Hernández denied the accusation, and the traces of gold found after an analysis of his foundry did not match the material of the trophy. In addition, doubts were raised because the trophy was not made of solid gold; it could not be melted into gold bars, and according to Pedro Berwanger, the Brazilian federal police officer who led the original investigation, it would be worth much more if left intact.
Hernández was arrested, along with the suspects, but when they received their sentences, they all fled. Chico Barbudo was shot to death in 1989 by five men in a bar. Luiz Bigode was re-arrested and freed from jail in 1998. Antonio Setta died in a car accident in 1985, as he was going to the police central to testify on the crime. Juan Carlos Hernández, who had bought a luxurious estate in the upper-class Rio neighborhood of Humaitá shortly after the theft, fled to France and was arrested in 1998 at a bus station in São Paulo for drug trafficking (he had also served jail time in France for the same offence). He was freed from jail in 2005, having never served the penalty for receiving stolen goods that he would incur for the trophy. The mastermind, Sérgio Peralta, was freed from jail in 1998. He died of a heart attack in 2003.
The trophy has never been recovered. Instead, a replica of the Jules Rimet Trophy was presented to the CBF in 1984.
- "1966: Football's World Cup stolen". BBC News. BBC. 20 March 1966. Retrieved 28 June 2010.
- Atherton, Martin (1 June 2006). "England loses the World Cup". History Today. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
- "Police Saturday freed three men a day after they..." United Press International. 28 January 1984. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
- Rodrigues, Sérgio (7 July 2014). "Jules Rimet, Meu Amor". Le Monde (in French). Retrieved 27 May 2016.
- Kuper, Simon (3 March 2012). "My quest for football's Holy Grail". Financial Times. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
But the story has holes. For a start, the Rimet couldn’t be melted into gold bars because it wasn’t solid gold. Most likely, the German replica wasn’t all gold either. Moreover, the police had no evidence the trophy had been melted down. Indeed, the convicted Argentine gold dealer Juan Carlos Hernández testified that he didn’t melt it down. An analysis of his foundry found traces of gold of a different quality from the trophy.
- "World Cup thief finally beaten". Sydney Morning Herald. Agence France-Presse. 11 November 2003. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
- Associated Press (2006). "Trophy as filled with history as Cup". CNN. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 5 July 2006.
- Martin Atherton – England loses the World Cup (History Today June 2006)
- The Theft of the Jules Rimet Trophy: The Hidden History of the 1966 World Cup, Martin Atherton, Meyer & Meyer Verlag, 2008, ISBN 1841262277