When David Corbett left his ground floor flat in Norwood, south London, on a Sunday evening to make a phone call and simultaneously give his dog a walk across to the kiosk over the road, the Thames lighterman must've struggled to fathom what was to come next.
Having only taken ownership of the four-year-old, mixed breed collie named Pickles after his brother John grew tired of having his furniture chewed up, Corbett's luck had been atmospherically high.
"I put the lead on Pickles and he went over to the neighbour's car. 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!'"
Now, you may be wondering just how the famed Jules Rimet trophy ended up in newspaper next to a car in south London, as opposed to a high security institution organised by the Football Association; you would be fully justified in querying that.
In actual fact, the whole incident stemmed from sheer, amateurish incompetence. Less than four months before the tournament was set to begin, the trophy was put on display at a stamp exhibition in central London.
Usually guarded by just a handful of security officers, including one believed to be 74 years of age, the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen on the second day of the exhibition while the guards were on a break. It is clouded with ambiguity as to how to trophy was actually stolen, but it is believed that two people broke through one of Westminster Central Hall's emergency exits and snatched the illustrious silverware before fleeing.
Police at Scotland Yard took charge of dealing with the crime that threatened to derail the biggest competition in world football. How could the tournament go ahead without a trophy?
In response to the incident, the FA set about getting silversmith George Bird to construct a replica in case the original ended up lost forever. Whilst that precautionary method was taking place, a ransom note was received by the chairman of the FA, Joe Mears, demanding a sum of £15,000 by someone ambiguously called 'Jackson'.
Strategically, the police advised Mears to agree to the deal, and an undercover officer was sent to meet 'Jackson'. The officer travelled to Battersea Park with a suitcase containing wads of newspaper, cleverly topped by five pound notes, and Jackson's identity was revealed as Edward Betchley - a former soldier.
Betchley was ultimately arrested, but his claims that he was simply the middle man and not the real culprit left the location of the trophy still unclear. He pleaded that the real instigator of the theft went by 'The Pole', and if this figure did exist, his identity was never discovered.
Anyways, back to Pickles.
After the free spirited collie obliviously stumbled upon the country's most in demand item, Corbett did the honourable thing and went straight to the local police station to hand it in; breathless, ecstatic... and still in his slippers.
Overcome by his obvious jubilation at finding the actual World Cup on his doorstep, Corbett did not take a moment to stop and think that he would now be the Police's number one suspect.
"I went into this bloody great incident room with twenty coppers taking calls. I heard one say, 'We've just searched the Northern line because someone said it was under seat number seven.'"
They questioned me until 2.30 in the morning. I wondered if I should've chucked it back in the road. I was up at six the next day for work."
Corbett was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing and the life of a celebrity could now be lived freely by himself and Pickles.
Pickles, in particular, lived the life of a star, as his discovery had gained so much attention that none other than the general election had been dwarfed by it.
The four legged phenomenon starred in a feature film, 'The Spy with the Cold Nose', as well as Blue Peter, Magpie and a bunch of other shows. Pickles was also voted 'Dog of the Year' and awarded a year's free dog food supply from Spillers. He also being offered to visit numerous countries; although Corbett declined the latter due to the six month quarantine rule after travel.
March 20th 1966 #JulesRimet #WorldCup #Trophy was stolen from its place of display. Pickles, a black and white collie, became #immortal for his role in recovering the stolen trophy days before the 1966 #FIFA World Cup was scheduled to kick off in #England.#soccer #history #dogs pic.twitter.com/SfG6YbXZLv— Non Serviam (@yalcin_izbul) March 20, 2018
As a result of his pet's unique discovery, Corbett also now lived a pampered lifestyle. The Thames lighterman hired an agent in order to make the most of Pickles' newfound fame, a decision which he says made him £60 a day and earned him access to a number of glamour events.
One glamorous event in particular saw Pickles and Corbett invited to attend the party in the evening of England's World Cup success over West Germany. Corbett must've been pinching himself, he'd gone from a normal guy living a normal life to a guy invited to World Cup final parties with the national team. Incredible.
"We went into the hotel with all these celebrities and Pickles walked over to the lift shaft and did a wee. I felt so embarrassed.
It was on this day 20th Mar 1966, that football's World Cup 'Jules Rimet' trophy was stolen from a display at Central Hall in Westminster. On 27th Mar, the gold trophy valued at £30,000, was discovered by chance in South London by a dog named Pickles.... pic.twitter.com/NrQO6tId8I— Paul Wiltshire (@EnglishTreasure) March 20, 2018
"Afterwards, the England team went out on to a balcony and the street was full of people. We went with them and Bobby Moore picked Pickles up and showed him to the crowd, and there were cheers."
For all the attention Pickles was receiving, Corbett may have felt like a spare part, but I have a feeling that he wasn't all that bothered.
All good stories come to an end however, and Pickles' celebrity lifestyle lasted roughly a year before he met an upsetting end.
"He shot after a cat and pulled my son over, before disappearing. I looked for over an hour. Then, in the gardens behind my house I saw him up on a tree. His chain was around the branch. Pickles just hung there."