One of the biggest investigations in Scotland Yard’s history was solved by an incredible dog named Pickles.
On March 20, 1966, the World Cup trophy was stolen while it was on public exhibition at the Methodist Central Hill in Westminster, London.
Luckily it was recovered by a canine hero who has gone down in history as the most famous dog in British sport.
The tale began when a package containing the top of the trophy and a ransom some note demanding £15,000 was sent to the FA three days after the theft.
But the trophy was later dumped by the thieves after the middleman was arrested. It was wrapped in newspaper and dumped down the street.
A week after the theft, owner David Corbett was walking Pickles when the dog started sniffing around his neighbour’s car.
“I was just on my way to the phone box because my brother’s wife was expecting a baby,” Mr Corbett, who was 26 at the time, said in 2016.
“I took the dog, and he kept running around the side of my neighbour’s car,” said Mr Corbett of their memorable walk in Beulah Hill, South Norwood.
“There was a package by the front wheel. It was very tightly wrapped – the IRA was in action in those days and I thought to myself ‘was it a bomb?’
“So I picked it up. Put it down. Picked it up, put it down again. I tore a little bit off the bottom and saw a shield. I recognised it straight away and thought ‘This is it!'”
But Pickles’ discovery nearly put his owner in a pickle.
When Mr Corbett brought the trophy to Gipsy Hill police station, instead of jumping for joy, the stony-faced desk sergeant said: “Doesn’t look very world-cuppy to me.”
Then once the cup was measured, examined and eventually verified, Mr Corbett found himself being questioned by detectives as the ‘number one suspect’.
At Gipsy Hill he was given a shot of whisky and told to calm down, but was then taken by a more senior officer to Cannon Row police station.
“All the press were already waiting, I don’t know how they found out,” recalled Mr Corbett.
“They took me into a room and started asking me questions – suddenly I realised I was suspect number one. But I knew I was in the clear so I let them ask all the questions they wanted.”
When the police took him home, however, another challenge was waiting for Mr Corbett and Pickles.
“All the world’s press were there,” the Thames lighterman said. “They were parked on curbs – stood on top of vans. I said to the copper ‘what should I do?’
“He said: ‘Go in, go to bed, wake up and go to work’.”
Mr Corbett and Pickles were invited to the winner’s banquet after England beat West Germany – with the dog given the honour of licking Mr Corbett’s dinner plate clean.
He also hit international headlines and was awarded a medal by the National Canine Defence League, while Mr Corbett received payouts from sponsors and the cup’s insurers of almost £5,000, with which he bought a house.
That wasn’t the end of Pickles’ fame. He appeared in a film with Eric Sykes called The Spy With A Cold Nose, had an outing on Blue Peter, was invited to grand openings and to restaurants, with Mr Corbett adding: “It was quite exciting really. They say everyone gets 10 minutes of fame, well I seem to get one every four years when the World Cup is on.”
But did fame change the doggy detective? Mr Corbett thinks not, but said he did notice that his beloved pet started to enjoy having a lot more photos taken after the find.
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He added: “I reckon he’s the most famous dog in sport. He used to get recognised, especially going to do’s, and he enjoyed it – loved getting fussed, especially by children
“I think he knew what was going on. There was always a little sparkle in his eye after that. And he always looked regal during photoshoots.”
“Pickles was a great dog. The only thing he didn’t like was cats – and that’s what did for him really.”
Pickles died in tragic circumstances in 1967 after chasing a cat and getting stuck in a tree where he choked when his collar got caught on a branch. Mr Corbett buried him in the garden where a plaque now stands.