6 Jun 2014

How Pickles the dog saved England’s World Cup (1966)

The Jules Rimet trophy disappeared for good when it was stolen in Brazil in 1983. But it had gone missing once before, in 1966, only to be retrieved from under a south London bush by Pickles the dog.

In March 1966, four months before the World Cup was due to kick off at Wembley, the Jules Rimet trophy, borrowed from the Football Association for the Stanley Gibbons Stampex exhibition at Westminster Central Hall, was stolen from a public display case despite a heavy security presence, writes Ian Searcey.

Quizzed by ITN reporter John Shearer about the theft, the chairman of the exhibition organisers, a clearly rattled Cecil Richardson, was adamant that precautions had been adequate, though admitted that “human error” may have played a role in losing the trophy.

The trophy was missing for a week, during which the FA received a hoax ransom demand for £15,000, (the cup was only worth £3,000, despite the £30,000 insurance that had been taken out) before Pickles the dog and his owner David Corbett found it wrapped in newspaper under a small tree near their south London home on the 28th.

Shearer was again on hand to interview Mr Corbett and an uninterested Pickles as they posed for the press by the famous shrub.

No-one was ever caught for the theft, and when England went on to win the World Cup, Pickles and his owner were invited to the players’ banquet. David Corbett received £6,000 in rewards and Pickles got a medal before moving into film work (The Spy with the Cold Nose) until his untimely death in 1967.

Brazil were permanently awarded the Jules Rimet following their third victory in 1970, but in December 1983 it was stolen again from a bullet-proof case at the Brazilian Football Confederation headquarters in Rio and, in the absence of Pickles, has never been recovered.