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The Strange Tale of the Jules Rimet Trophy
The golden trophy awarded to the eventual winners of each FIFA World Cup tournament is the most prized prize in football. But the trophy that will be awarded to whichever team eventually wins in South Africa in 2010 will not be a rehash of the original trophy, first awarded in 1930, but rather a replacement that has been in use since the original, the Jules Rimet trophy. it was awarded in perpetuity to Brazil in 1970 in recognition of their third World Cup Victory. But the story behind the fate of the Jules Rimet trophy is much stranger than you might imagine.
The trophy itself was first created for the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930. At the time it was officially known as “Victory”, only in 1946 was it renamed for the man whose vision had given birth to the competition in the country of seen. It was a real work of art. Designed by Abel Lafleur, its blue lapis base held a solid gold representation of the goddess Nike, the ancient Greek protector of victory.
In January 1966, Jules Rimet’s trophy went to London so it could be displayed ahead of the World Cup, scheduled to take place in England later that year. The trophy was placed under the auspices of the English Football Association, who kept it at their Lancaster Gate headquarters, showing it publicly only on a few well-organized occasions.
However, in February, the Stanley Gibbons Stamp Company requested permission from the FA to “loan” the trophy, to be used as the center attraction for their Stampex exhibition the following month. The company promised it would be well kept and covered by a $30,000 insurance policy, even though it was only valued at $3,000.
In March the exhibition opened in the central hall in Westminster. Two guards were hired to stand by the trophy day and night, joined by two plainclothes police during the day. But anyway, it was later admitted that neither had their eyes on the prized cup at all times.
On Sunday, March 20, security guards doing their midday inspection discovered that the cabinet holding the Jules Rimet trophy had been opened and the award gone.
Scotland Yard immediately took over the investigation, but early leads failed. Then, on Monday March 21, FA chairman Joe Mears received an anonymous phone call to his office. The caller stated that Mears could expect a package addressed to him to be delivered to Chelsea Football Club the next day.
But the package actually arrived at Mears’ home. It contained the removable dress from the Jules Rimet trophy and a note asking for fifteen thousand pounds in small notes. The note further instructed the FA to place a coded advertisement in the personal column of The Evening News. If they followed through on subsequent requests, the note continued, they would have the trophy back by Friday.
The events of the next few days resemble something out of an old gangster movie. Mears contacted Scotland Yard who began to implement a plan. Packets of counterfeit money were created and two officers were assigned to be with Mears at all times. In the meantime he was sent home to await another call.
When the call finally came, a terrified Mears was in the throes of an asthma attack. His wife handed the phone to his assistant McPhee (who in real life was Detective Inspector Buggy). “McPhee” was instructed to proceed, with cash, to nearby Battersea Park.
Buggy drove on, shadowed by a number of Flying Squad colleagues in unmarked cars. At the gate he met a “Mr. Jackson” Buggy showed the man the suitcase and he did not notice that the coin was counterfeit. Buggy asked to see the trophy before handing over the money. Jackson agreed, getting into Buggy’s car and promising to drive him to the trophy.
Somewhere along the way “Jackson” realized they were being followed and became nervous. He instructed Buggy to stop at the next traffic light so he could go and retrieve the trophy from its hiding place. After getting out of the car, he left. Buggy followed and eventually found him hiding in a private garden. At the police station he was identified as Edward Betchley, a local car dealer and petty thief. He was charged with theft and subsequent attempted extortion, but the Jules Rimet trophy was still missing.
On March 27, local man David Corbett and his dog Pickles were walking in the Beulah Hill area of South London as usual. The dog discovered a package, tightly wrapped in newspaper. Corbett opened it and immediately recognized its contents. He returned the Jules Rimet World Cup trophy to the local Gypsy Hill police station immediately. Your browser may not support displaying this image.
Although initially under suspicion, Corbett had an iron-clad alibi for the time of the theft and after FA officials positively identified the trophy as genuine, news of its recovery was released and Pickles found himself hailed a national hero.
Corbett received a $12,000 bounty and Pickles even went on to have a brief career in movies. In the summer of 1966 England won the World Cup, so the Jules Rimet trophy remained hidden in England for another year. A copy was made immediately after the original was recovered to be displayed for public purposes.
In 1970, on the man’s own instructions 40 years earlier, when Brazil triumphed in the competition he conceived for the third time, they were given the Jules Rimet trophy to keep. A brand new trophy was created to be awarded to future winners. Your browser may not support displaying this image.
In 1983 the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen once again and never recovered. Investigators believe it was immediately melted down for its gold value and Pickles the dog was no longer there to help them search for it.
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