Photo of the Day

Photographers take photographs of Pickles, the dog who sniffed out the missing Jules Rimet World Cup Trophy, which had been stolen from the National Stamp Exhibition a week earlier, 28th March 1966. Pickles is posing near the spot where he found the trophy, in Beulah Hill, Norwood, South London. Photo by Central Press/Getty Images.

“Doesn?t Look Very World Cup-y To Me”

The policeman on duty’s response to David Corbett showing him the recently recovered Jules Rimet trophy

Pickles, the mongrel dog who found the World Cup in a London street after it had been stolen before the 1966 finals, became a bigger story than that year’s general election.

Before England won the World Cup, it actually lost it when a London thief swiped the solid gold trophy awarded to the tournament champions. While Scotland Yard came up empty in its search for soccer?s ultimate prize, it took a pooch named ?Pickles? to get his country out of a pickle and crack the case.

On March 20, 1966, a daring thief in London fulfilled the dreams of soccer players around the globe by putting his hands on the Jules Rimet Trophy.

Most of football?s Hollywood-worthy plots take place on the field, featuring underdog triumphs, late goals and impossible drama. However, arguably one of the game?s greatest storylines, involving mystery, intrigue and an unlikely hero, took place away from the floodlights, featuring a church hall, a ransom note and a loyal dog.

It was an event that sparked global news, panic amongst the FA ? who had been granted it ahead of the upcoming FIFA World Cup? and London?s Metropolitan Police, before ultimately making a celebrity of the eventual finder, Pickles the dog, and his owner David Corbett.

There was a general election coming up, but Pickles knocked Harold Wilson off the front pages.?

A policeman stands guard in Central Hall Westminster, next to the stand at the National Stamp Exhibition where the Jules Rimet trophy was housed before it was stolen, 21st March 1966. The World Cup competition was held in England later in the year. Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

It?s an event that still resonates with football fans around the globe today, as Corbett will testify. ?It is amazing really, I think it?s the fact that every four years it comes up again, it?s not like something that happens and then it?s forgotten.? Journalists from around the globe get in contact to hear his memories of the tale, though he modestly admits: ?People remember the dog, they don?t remember me!?

While the Collie is the star, the plotline that led to Pickles? ascension into football folklore is intriguing in its own right before the hairy hero enters during the final act.

With the World Cup due to kick off in four months? time, the FA received a request to display the Trophy at the Stanley Gibbons Stampex Stamp Exhibition at Methodist Central Hall in Westminster ? a well-policed part of London, just a couple of hundred metres from the Houses of Parliament.

Then FIFA President Stanley Rous agreed to this, as long as these three conditions were followed: the Trophy had to be transported by a reputable security firm, it must be placed in a locked glass case which was guarded 24 hours a day and it was to be insured for ?30,000. The trophy was only valued at a tenth of that, while it was surrounded by stamps worth ?3m.

Crucially, though, security was not around the clock and, with the exhibition closed, somewhere between 11 am and 12:10 pm ? with a church service taking place on the floor below ? the perpetrator broke in through the back door and left without a trace. Cue hysteria and embarrassment, after the world-famous trophy was stolen from under the nose of the reputed Metropolitan Police.

18th March 1966: A young boy and a man looking at the Jules Rimet world cup trophy during a British stamp exhibition. (Photo by M. McKeown/Express/Getty Images)

A diagram showing how the World Cup was stolen from the exhibition site in Westminster Central Hall, 22nd March 1966. The thief entered via the Matthew Parker Street entrance and made his way past the Harmer Rooke stamp stand to the cabinet containing the cup. Thieves removed the cup from the ?Sport with Stamps? display at the Stampex exhibition, but stamps worth ?3m were left behind. At least two guards were in the hall at the time of the theft? Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The investigation began. Detective Inspector Bill Little heard witness statements from senior guard Frank Hudson and Margaret Coombes, a woman attending a Sunday-school service in a different part of the hall. Both saw a man loitering by the gents. Although their descriptions differed, the police announced they were searching for just one thief.

Meanwhile, the FA attempted to deal with the crisis. Before the theft became public, the FA secretary, Denis Follows, visited silversmith George Bird at his workshop in Fenchurch Street. Follows asked Bird to make a replica of the trophy from the same solid gold as the original, and was told nothing else other than to keep his mouth shut. Very few people, including Rous, knew about the visit.

Once the world discovered the theft, a deluge of crank theories arrived at Scotland Yard. One man wrote to say that his clock had told him the trophy was in Wicklow, Ireland. A Susanna Bell in Chile believed ‘a coloured man’ was the thief. Adolf Hieke sent a photograph from a German newspaper and placed an ‘X’ on it against the man he believed to be guilty.

While Scotland Yard came up empty in its search for soccer?s ultimate prize, it took a pooch named ?Pickles? to get his country out of a pickle and crack the case.

On March 20, 1966, a daring thief in London fulfilled the dreams of soccer players around the globe by putting his hands on the Jules Rimet Trophy. Four months before England was set to host the World Cup for the first time, panic and embarrassment swept the country when it was discovered that soccer?s greatest prize had gone missing.

Sport?s most coveted trophy had gone on display only 24 hours earlier when the National Stamp Exhibition opened in Westminster Central Hall, just a few hundred yards from Scotland Yard headquarters. The Stanley Gibbons stamp company had received permission from FIFA, soccer?s governing body, to display the hardware as part of its ?Sports with Stamps? exhibit under the condition that it be guarded around the clock. The defence, however, proved porous as the burglar apparently struck on a Sunday morning while the exhibition was closed and a Methodist service was taking place on the hall?s ground floor. Money was apparently no object as the thief who pried open the back of the glass case swiped the small, solid gold trophy valued at $8,400, leaving untouched stamps worth $8.4 million.

The ?30,000 solid gold Jules Rimet trophy disappeared while a church service was taking place in another part of the building. The gold and lapis lazuli trophy, the soccer equivalent to the Lombardy trophy, depicted the Greek goddess Nike, the goddess of victory.

One member of staff on watch was quoted as saying ?nothing at all went wrong with our security, the Cup just got stolen? before police issued a description of a suspect: a slim male in his 30s, sporting slicked black hair and a possible scar on the right of his face. Hoaxes causing halted underground trains and possible sightings ensued. ?Days later, English Football Association chairman Joe Mears received a package containing a piece of the trophy?which depicted Nike, the?Greek goddess of victory?along with a ransom note demanding $42,000.

‘Dear Joe Kno (sic) no doubt you view with very much concern the loss of the world cup…’ it began. ‘To me, it is only so much scrap gold. If I don’t hear from you by Thursday or Friday at the latest I assume its one for the POT.’ Jackson called, seeking confirmation that Mears had the parcel. ‘Give me ?15,000 on Friday and the Cup will arrive by cab on Saturday,’ he said.

As Jackson had requested, Mears posted the message, ‘Willing to do business Joe’, in Thursday’s edition of London’s Evening News. But he ignored the warning not to tell the police. On Friday, Buggy arrived at Mears’ home but the FA chairman, an angina sufferer, had to go to bed because of stress. So Buggy arranged with Mrs Mears that he would pose as her husband’s assistant ‘McPhee’ when Jackson called.

The sender, known as ?Jackson? eventually agreed to meet in Battersea Park, though instead of Mears, Detective Inspector Len Buggy ? posing as the chairman?s assistant ?McPhee? ? would bring the demanded ?15,000. However, the case, in fact, contained just ?500 ? concealing newspaper below. After being told to drive around south London for ten minutes the supposed-thief, real name Edward Betchley caught sight of the police back-up vehicle and ran, only to be arrested.

The arrested man?47-year-old dockworker and petty thief Edward Betchley?claimed to be only a middleman and did not divulge the location of the stolen cup.

The thief’s real name was Edward Betchley, a 46-year-old former soldier who had served in the Royal Armoured Corps during the Second World War in Egypt and Italy, before being demobbed with an ‘exemplary character’ in January 1946.

With a previous conviction in 1954 for receiving tins of corned beef, Betchley was hardly big time. And at Rochester Row police station, he insisted that he was just the middleman, paid ?500 for his part. All Betchley added was that the man behind the theft was known as The Pole. It is not clear if he actually existed.

All that mattered now, though, was finding the trophy. Chief Superintendent John Bailey was offered a deal by Betchley. He wanted a lady friend to visit him in Brixton prison. If she was followed, Betchley said, then the cup’s location would not be revealed. Bailey agreed. Two days later Pickles found the trophy.

Edward Betchley, who was charged with the theft of the Jules Rimet trophy. (Credit: William H. Alden/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

As Scotland Yard continued its furious search a week after the trophy?s disappearance, enter Pickles and Corbett to the stage. Now a week since the robbery, which had been dissected in detail across the national press, Corbett sets out to the telephone box across the road to see if his brother?s new baby had been born, with Pickles in tow.

On his way, the black and white dog started sniffing around at an unusual package. ?It was wrapped in tightly-bound newspaper and string, lying against my neighbour?s car wheel,? Corbett retold, likely for around the thousandth time in the last half century. ?I picked it up and it?s quite heavy, though not very big ? it wasn?t a spectacular cup.

?At the time the IRA were active, and it was so tightly wrapped in newspaper I thought it might be a bomb,? Corbett recalled to the Manchester Evening News. ?So I put it down and then picked it up again a few times. Then I worked up the courage to pull away some of the paper and saw these discs saying ?Uruguay winners? and ?Brazil.?? That?s when the soccer fan realised that Pickles had discovered the missing World Cup trophy.

Pickles poses with his family, the Corbetts. IMAGE: ROLLS PRESS/POPPERFOTO/GETTY IMAGEs.

Although his wife, who did not share his passion for soccer, wasn?t overly impressed with the find, Corbett dashed off to the police station so quickly that he forgot he was still wearing his slippers. He burst through the station doors and declared, ?I think I?ve found the World Cup!? The gruff sergeant working at the front desk looked at the diminutive trophy and replied, ?It doesn?t look very World Cup-py to me, Sonny.?

A detective called in to examine the find determined it was indeed the missing prize, and after some pointed questions, Corbett soon realised he was the prime suspect.

Pickles and his owner were suspects for a brief time.? However, they both had alibis (I?m assuming Pickles didn?t need an alibi, other than being a DOG).

The media attention was worldwide and, Corbett says, Pickles enjoyed it. Before it began, though, Corbett had to deal with the theory that exercised the police from the moment, breathless and still in his slippers, he arrived at Gypsy Hill police station in Crystal Palace and was taken to Scotland Yard. ‘I was suspect number one,’ he says. ‘I went into this bloody great incident room with twenty coppers taking calls. I heard one say, “We’ve just searched the Northern [Tube] line because someone said it was under seat number seven.”

‘They questioned me until 2.30 in the morning. I wondered if I should’ve chucked it back in the road. I was up at six the next day for work.’

Corbett recalls: ‘The general election was due but this knocked Harold Wilson off the front pages. When my mates realised they said, “Bloody hell. I bet you nicked it!”‘ Eventually, though, Corbett was cleared.

Overnight, Pickles became a national hero for helping England avoid an international embarrassment. ?This has saved our honour in the eyes of the world,? Mears told the press. While Corbett received more than $16,000 in reward money, Pickles secured the services of an agent, made numerous television appearances.

Now Pickles was living the life of a celebrity. He starred in a feature film, The Spy with the Cold Nose, and appeared on Magpie, Blue Peter and many other TV shows. He was made Dog of the Year, awarded a year’s free supply of food from Spillers and there were offers to visit Chile, Czechoslovakia and Germany.

‘But I would’ve had to put Pickles into quarantine for six months and he was only a pet, so I didn’t think I could do that,’ says Corbett. How did he find the constant attention? ‘I got myself an agent. The same as Spike Milligan’s. He made me ?60 a day, bloody brilliant! He would call and my wife and I would meet him and his girlfriend and go drinking Champagne.’

The Jules Rimet trophy being locked in a safe. Credit: SSPL/Getty Images.

Betchley, meanwhile, was found guilty for his role in the robbery. Whether he was indeed a middleman or acting alone has never been determined.

Before being locked up for two years, he declared to the court, ?Whatever my sentence is, I hope that England wins the World Cup.?

On July 30, 1966, Betchley?s hopes?as well as all of England?s?came true following his country?s dramatic 4-2 extra-time victory over West Germany in the World Cup final. Wearing a pair of long white gloves, Queen Elizabeth II handed over the very trophy rescued by Pickles to Bobby Moore, captain of England?s victorious squad.

Queen Elizabeth of England presents the Jules Rimet Cup to Bobby Moore, captain of England’s national soccer team, as her husband Prince Philip (C) and forward Geoff Hurst (R) look on after England beat West Germany 4-2 in extra time in the World Cup final 30 July 1966 at Wembley Stadium in London. Hurst scored three goals, two of them in extra time, to help England win its first World title. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STAFF/AFP/Getty Images)

David Corbett and Pickles watch the World Cup Final on TV. Credit: Downing/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Although Pickles had been relegated to watching the match from the comfort of home on his owner?s lap, the canine hero and his master were guests of honour at the team?s celebration dinner at a London hotel.

One of Corbett?s rewards, three months before England were due to host the World Cup, was to join the team?s celebrations at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington after the final.

?I turned up with Pickles under my arm and he was allowed to lick my dinner plate clean. Bobby Charlton?s wife made a big fuss over him, but the WAGs were not happy.

?The players were upstairs, waving from the balcony, drinking champagne, while their wives were in a room downstairs with only a buffet.

?Cor, were they upset! They were all dressed up, believing they were going to celebrate winning the World Cup with their husbands, but all they got for their glad rags was a buffet. I bet the rolling pin was out later that night.?

The World Cup trophy on show to the press, London, March 28, 1966.

28th March 1966: David Corbett with his dog, Pickles, who found the World Cup in his back garden after it was stolen before the World Cup in England eight days earlier. Photo by Keystone/Getty Images.

To the cheers of thousands of delirious fans, Bobby Moore appeared on a hotel balcony and held the cup aloft?followed by Pickles. British Prime Minister Harold Wilson gave the dog a friendly pat on the head, and no one even minded when Pickles lifted his hind leg and heeded nature?s call near an elevator in the posh hotel.

Pickles received countless awards, including being named ?Dog of the Year? and given a year?s supply of food! Pickles grew even more famous when he starred in the 1966 film, ?The Spy with the Cold Nose.?

Four years later, Brazil was awarded the Jules Rimet Trophy in perpetuity after winning its third World Cup, and FIFA began design of a new award that is now handed out to the tournament?s victors. It turned out that history repeated itself in 1983 when the Jules Rimet Trophy was stolen once again. No dog came to the rescue for a second time, however. The trophy has never been found and was likely melted down for its gold. The current trophy is a replica.

The international soccer federation (FIFA) commissioned a new trophy for the 1974 World Cup. It is officially called the FIFA World Cup ? Trophy. Winning teams from 1974 on have their names engraved on the base. It will never be given to a country, no matter how many consecutive victories they have.

The design for the new cup was by Italian artist Silvio Gazzaniga.

He describes it:

The lines spring out from the base, rising in spirals, stretching out to receive the world. From the remarkable dynamic tensions of the compact body of the sculpture rise the figures of two athletes at the stirring moment of victory.

But actually many people found it to be too small, not really a cup and quite ugly.?The replica went up for auction 14 years later at Sotheby’s. It was bought for ?254,000 by Fifa, eclipsing the reserve price of ?30,000, and is now at the National Football Museum in Preston.

Observer Sport contacted Betchley’s daughter, Marie, in 2006, but she refuses to speak. ‘I knew nothing about football then,’ she said. ‘And I’m not interested now. I can’t understand what people would be interested in 40 years down the line.’

The fascination is much to do with a dog named Pickles, and a story that refuses to die. Even now, there must be a question over whether Betchley really was the only one involved. ‘I’ve been offered a few hundred pounds from some newspapers,’ Marie’s husband, John Stringer, says. ‘It’ll take a lot more for me to open my mouth. But I handled all my father-in-law’s legal affairs at the time. And let me tell you, there is a twist that has yet to be revealed.’

It is a shame that Pickles is not around to sniff it out.

A year after garnering headlines, Pickles met an untimely end when he choked to death when his leash caught on a tree while chasing a cat. Corbett buried him in a humble grave in his back garden underneath a small plaque that reads: ?Pickles, Finder of the World Cup 1966.?

Pickles’ luck also ran out the year after his great find. ‘My six-year-old had him on a choke lead,’ recalls Corbett. ‘He shot after a cat and pulled my son over, before disappearing. I looked for over an hour. Then, in the gardens behind my house, I saw him up on a tree. His chain was around the branch. Pickles just hung there.’

Corbett buried him in the back garden of the house in Lingfield, Surrey, that the reward money had bought. ‘I received ?3,000 and paid ?3,100 for this house,’ said Corbett.

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