Sunday, 20 March 2016, marked 50 years since the Jules Rimet Cup was stolen for the first time. Displayed in central London as part of a stamp exhibition, the World Cup trophy was said to be guarded by four police officers when it was stolen between 11am and midday. Doors had been forced, the trophy's showcase smashed, and football’s greatest prize was nowhere to be seen. Seven days later, the World Cup trophy was discovered without explanation wrapped in newspaper in a South London driveway by a dog called Pickles.
The theft and subsequent finding of the trophy remain shrouded in mystery 50 years on. It is possible that we will never know exactly what happened or who was involved. Football is often called a game of passion, and the fact that the thief (or thieves) left numerous stamps said to be worth £3million – significantly more than the trophy – suggest it could have been a crime of passion too.
Here’s a chronological account of what we know happened:
The Jules Rimet Cup is handed over to Eric Allen of Stanley Gibbons, at the FA headquarters at Lancaster Gate. It was then transported to Westminster's Central Hall on Tothill Street, London, by private security service Alsa-Guard.
The trophy goes on display as the major attraction at the Stanley Gibbons Stampex exhibition. It is placed on the first floor of Central Hall. While the exhibition is open, the trophy is guarded by four uniformed guards, two in plain clothes and one is permanently located beside the showcase.
The Jules Rimet Cup is stolen. Guards are said to have checked it at 11AM and at 12.10PM - meaning the robber or robbers had just over one hour to collect the trophy and escape. Eye witness accounts suggest that two men could have been involved.
"Cecil Richardson, chairman of the exhibition organisers, speaking to an ITN reporter" "We all have room for human error and perhaps a little human error may have crept in. I am quite satisfied we did everything we could other than put an armed guard round the hall."
The theft is announced to the press. The FA is quick to absolve itself of blame but counterparts around the world publicly express anger. Some of the American media dismiss it is a publicity stunt.
A ransom note with a demand for £15,000 is delivered to the home of Joe Mears – chairman of the FA. This comes after several calls to Chelsea FC where Mears was the club's Chairman. The ransom note is dated 21st March, and contains the removable bowl from the top of the trophy.
"A verbatim excerpt from the ransom note" "Kno doubt you view with very great concern the loss of the world cup to me it is only so much weight in scrap gold so if you want to see it again I suggest you do as I say and follow my instruction. (...) If I do not hear from you by Thursdays or Friday at the latest assume its one for the POT."
Ignoring warnings not to inform the police, Joe Mears meets officers from Scotland Yard at the FA headquarters. The police advise against paying the ransom. Instead, paper is covered with bank notes to create the illusion that the money is there.
As requested by the ransom note, Joe Mears (left below) publishes a note reading ‘Willing to do business. Joe’ in the Thursday edition of London’s Evening News.
The deadline set for the ransom’s payment passes. Mears, who had suffered an angina attack, is bedridden and DI Buggy, accompanied by other undercover police officers, takes his place and goes to meet the ransomer known as "Jackson". They rendezvous and Jackson gets in the car, though quickly announces fears they are being followed. They are. After a short journey Jackson, later identified as Edward Bletchley, is arrested for the theft of the cup - which was not recovered. See the map below for a rough look at the short journey - but please note that not all of it is confirmed as accurate.
The police meet Jackson close to Parkgate Road (A) and apprehend him at St Agnes Place (B).
The trophy is found wrapped in newspaper in the driveway of 50 Beulah Hill in Upper Norwood by a dog called Pickles and his owner David Corbett.
Pickles enjoys a brief new life as a media darling. He appears in TV shows, movies and is regularly photographed by the British press. Sadly, he dies six months later.
Jackson, or Edward Bletchley, appears in court and is remanded on bail. He is later charged and found guilty as an accomplice to the crime, but no-one was ever caught for the theft.
Bobby Moore is presented with the Jules Rimet Cup after England defeat West Germany 4-2 in the World Cup Final.