Theft, ransom and the end of the Jules Rimet Trophy

With the Coca-Cola FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour to reach India on 22nd December, Goal takes a look at what led to the end of the Jules Rimet Trophy..
By Shikharr Chandra

Almost 47 years ago on a Sunday evening, the Jules Rimet trophy that was stolen from an exhibition from the Westminster Central Hall was finally discovered. David Corbett, a man from south London was out for a walk with his brother's dog Pickles when they found the famous trophy near their neighbours car packed tightly.

'Pickles drew my attention to a package, tightly bound in newspaper, lying by the front wheel. I picked it up and tore some paper and saw a woman holding a dish over her head, and disks with the words Germany, Uruguay, Brazil. I rushed inside to my wife. She was one of those anti-sport wives. But I said, "I've found the World Cup! I've found the World Cup!'

The Jules Rimet trophy was named after its inventor Jules Rimet back in 1930 and was awarded to the winner of the FIFA World Cup till 1970 with the last team to lift the prestigious trophy being Brazil. The story of the trophy after that still remains a mystery.

The Football Association of England recieved the trophy in 1966 before the start of the World Cup scheduled in July. The trophy was stolen in March, 1966 from the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster where it was being exhibited in a glass cabinet. Five guards were given the duty to guard the trophy but on Sunday, the Central Hall was used for Methodist services and the guards stationed near the trophy had a day off.

While the members of the hall enjoyed their time out, the trophy was under no observation and it was only during the afternoon that one of the members of the Hall, George Franklin found out that the trophy was stolen. It was noticed that someone had forced open the display case and the rear doors of the building and stolen the trophy. The thieves had broken in through the back door.

For the English FA, it was a matter of shame especially when the World Cup was just around the corner. The Association decided to take quick measures to solve the case and detective Bill Little of the Scotland Yard was handed the case. Meanwhile, the FA tried to keep the incident under wraps as silversmith George Bird was asked to create a replica of the trophy. The whole conversation between Bird and FA secretary Dennis Follows was kept top secret so that the whole story did not get leaked.

As the news of the missing trophy became public, the big break for the detectives came when a ransom call was made to FA and Chelsea chairman Joe Mears. Mears was handed a parcel which consisted of a piece of the Jules Rimet trophy. It also contained a note that demanded £15,000.

'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. Give me £15,000 on Friday and the cup will arrive by cab on Saturday,' he said.

'Willing to do business' was the reply of the FA Chairman as he accepted the demands. The deal was set to conclude at Battersea Park.

But despite the warnings, Mears contacted the police regarding the parcel and the ransom call. The police 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 accompanied Mears, dressed as his assistants.

Detective Buggy drove to the park instead of Mears and met 'Jackson'. Buggy handed him the bag of suitcase that consisted of false notes and demanded to be shown the trophy. The whole operation for 'Jackson' went wrong when he saw a backup van following him. Although he tried to escape, 'Jackson' was unsuccessful and was arrested.

'Jackson' was later identified as Edward Betchley, a 46-year-old former soldier. He was recognized by Coombes as the strange man who he had seen entering the hall on the day the theft had taken place.

The trophy was still missing though that is until Pickles turned up. David Corbett along with the police went to the police station and handed over the trophy to Harold Mayes of the FA who confirmed it as the Jules Rimet trophy. Corbett was handed over a cash prize of £6,000 and the chance to join the players after the World Cup final win. Pickles on the other hand became a superstar. He appeared on TV shows and a couple of movies as well.

Edward Betchley who was convicted of stealing the trophy died due to emphysema in 1969. The Jules Rimet trophy was handed over to Brazil since they won the trophy the most number of times.

The trophy though was stolen from the Brazilian Federation office as well in 1983 and this time it was never returned. It is widely believed that the trophy was melted and turned into gold bars. Unfortunately, there was no Pickles this time to find the trophy this time around as football's canine friend had already passed away.

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