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General: Greatest ever sporting mysteries

Commentators are often heard to utter the phrase 'you couldn't write a script like that' when describing action on the field.

However, sometimes events off the field could test those authors who specialise in great works of fiction.

Pickles finds the World Cup

The FA and England as a whole was very proud that the World Cup was coming 'home' in 1966, so much so that in March of that year, the Jules Rimet Trophy was displayed in a glass cabinet at Methodist Central Hall in London as part of a rare stamps exhibition.

However, it was stolen and subsequently, a £15,000 ransom demand was delivered to Joe Mears, who was not only chairman of Chelsea but also the FA.

A reward was offered and within a week, in fact, on this day in 1966, a package wrapped in newspaper was found by a parked car in Beulah Hill in Upper Norwood in south London, by a black and white collie Pickles, who was being walked by his owner David Corbett.

The owner gained a £5,000 reward and Pickles became a celebrity, appear on television shows and receiving a silver medal from the National Canine Defence League.

Edward Betchley had mailed the ransom demand and was sentenced to two years in prison. Even though he claimed he was only acting as a middleman, no other accessories were found, so it remains a mystery as to whether he was really acting on his own.

The great FA Cup robbery

There had been a similar outcry 71 years earlier when the FA Cup was stolen in Birmingham.

The trophy had been won by Aston Villa after a 1-0 triumph over West Brom at Crystal Palace and William Shillock, a boot manufacturer who listed many of the Villa players as his customers, was allowed to display the trophy in his shop window.

However, he was shocked to discover one morning that it had been stolen and a hole in the roof suggested how the thieves had entered the property.

Villa were fined £25 for losing it while it was under their care and after a copy was used, the current trophy first appeared in 1911.

However, in 1958, 80-year-old Harry Burge, who had a long criminal record, said that he and two since deceased accomplices had conducted the robbery and melted the trophy down to make fake half-crown coins to distribute in the city's public houses.

He died six years later and the matter was forgotten but two other people have since said that their relatives had been involved.

The details were quite sketchy at the time and we shall now probably never know who was actually responsible.

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The All Blacks food-poisoning conspiracy

South Africa's success in the 1995 Rugby World Cup remains the Rainbow Nation's most celebrated sporting achievement but it has left a sour taste in the mouth of New Zealanders for 27 years.

Two days before their showdown at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, 31 of the 36 All Blacks travelling party were hit by a bout of food poisoning - the other five had nipped out for a pizza - and conspiracy theories have abounded ever since.

The presence of a new waitress called Suzie, who disappeared swiftly after the offending meal, was hailed as one particular scapegoat as fingers were pointed in all sorts of directions.

South African authority figures questioned the wisdom of eating shellfish a couple of days before such a big match but chilli sauce, tea, coffee, water, chicken, beef burgers and milk have all been identified as potential sources.

All Blacks coach Laurie Mains even got a private investigator to look into the issue and while it is likely they would have been much stronger in extra-time had it not been for their illness, the South Africans simply blamed sour grapes.

Bobby Moore and the Bogota bracelet

England's quest to successfully defend their World Cup crown in Mexico started disastrously even before the tournament kicked off.

Altitude was seen as a massive issue, so in order to get used to playing in the clouds, Alf Ramsey took his team to Colombia and Ecuador for warm-up matches.

While in the Colombian capital Bogota, skipper Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton browsed at a gift shop in the foyer of their hotel, but didn't buy anything.

However, the shop assistant claimed she had seen Moore take a bracelet and put it in his pocket.

Both players protested their innocence and, after the police turned up, it was dismissed as a mix-up and nothing more was done.

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