Bobby Moore: The Bogotá Bracelet scandal (revisited)
Sir Alf Ramsey, the manager, said, when asked about their chances of retaining the Jules Rimet Trophy (World Cup): …I think we have an excellent chance and that we have a stronger party than in 1966…Provided we can acclimatise properly I think it will take a great team to beat us.” – The Times
In preparation for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, one needed to check the England Esso coin collection was complete and the squad poster was neatly pinned to a teenagers wall. The England team left us with a song, ‘Back Home’ appearing on ‘Top of the Pops’ reaching number 1 in the charts on May 16. Staying there for three weeks.
The England squad of 28 players flew to Mexico City on 4 May 1970. Acclimatising while staying at the Parc des Princes Hotel and training at the Reform Club. Before flying off in readiness to play a series of warm up games in South America. This was mainly to get use to the high altitudes they would experience in Mexico. One of these matches was in Bogotá Columbia. The team landing in the capital on Monday 18 May. While in the city, the squad had been warned not to go out alone in the streets and to be careful. The capital was poverty stricken with many pickpockets, so move around in groups.
El Tequendama Hotel
Before the match the players were relaxing in the El Tequendama hotel (the most exclusive in Bogotá). Near the foyer was a gift shop called Fuego Verde (Green Fire) selling jewellery. England’s captain Bobby Moore (1941-1993) went in with Bobby Charlton to look for a present for Charlton’s wife. The team doctor Neil Phillips was also in the shop. After looking at some of the items in the display cases, Moore and Charlton found nothing and left. They were in the foyer, sitting with one or two of the other players when the assistant in the shop, Clara Padilla, came out and accused them of stealing a valuable bracelet from a display case.
Moore and Charlton first thought all this was some form of joke. They protested their innocence and offered to allow themselves to be searched. Despite this, the Police were called. In minutes they were surrounded by armed guards. Alan Mullery (Team member) recalled ‘Alf Ramsey (England’s Manager), came flying over. They were pointing the guns at him as well.’ Ramsey, spoke to the authorities, attempting to take charge of the situation. Geoff Hurst (Team member) believed ‘Alf, fearful of some foreign conspiracy, was a worried man’.
The two players were briefly questioned, and made an official statement. This appeared to resolve the matter, receiving apologies for the inconvenience. The team said nothing of the incident to anyone. Their loyalty to each other remained. It was suggested by gentlemen’s agreement, the travelling British sports journalists agreed not to mention the matter. This certainly wouldn’t have happened today. On Wednesday 20 May, the match against Colombia went ahead. England winning 4–0, both Moore and Charlton were in the side.
Video: Colombia v England
After their win in Bogotá. England then proceeded to fly off on Thursday 21 May to their match against Ecuador in Quito, staying at the Intercontinental Hotel. At this time Ramsey was about to cut his squad down from twenty-eight to twenty-two players. There was a tension in the air (apart from the Bobby Moore business) amongst those who thought it could be them. But still hoping they would make the plane to Mexico.
Ramsey discarded Bob McNab, Brian Kidd, David Sadler, Ralph Coates, Peter Thompson and Peter Shilton from the squad. He did invite those who wished to stay on, but only Peter Thompson and David Sadler took up his invitation.
McNab needed to rush back to London. He’d been asked to join ITV’s World Cup panel. Whose discussions, arguments and debate, throughout the 1970 World Cup would to go down as the birth of TV football punditry in the UK. Such was its impact on the British public.
On Saturday 23 May, to help out the press with their UK deadlines. Ramsey told selected reporters in strict confidence before he told the players. It came to light that a journalist had rang David Sadler’s wife informing her of his departure from the squad. She subsequently rang her husband at the Hotel. He knowing nothing about it. When Alf discovered this, he was livid. Further underlining his mistrust of journalists. On Sunday 24 May England beat Ecuador 2-0 with goals from Francis Lee and Brian Kidd.
Video: Ecuador v England
The team left Equador on Monday 25 May, due to fly on to Mexico City for the World Cup finals.The schedule and planning had been prepared months before. There were no direct flights from Quito to Mexico. So this involved flying via Bogotá, where there would be a five-hour stopover. To avoid hanging around the airport it had been pre-arranged to relax and return to the El Tequendama hotel where the bracelet incident had occurred. The team uneasily checked in, with an air of apprehension, although no one said anything.
Alan Mullery recalled ‘Bobby Charlton smoking a cigarette looking far from happy’ and ‘more nervous than usual.’ To fill the time while waiting for their flight, the team sat down to watch the film ‘Shenandoah’ a James Stewart western, arranged for them by Ramsey. While sitting there two plainclothes Colombian police officers quietly took Bobby Moore out and formally arrested him for theft.
The Colombian police acted after a new witness Alvaro Suarez came forward. He claimed to have seen Moore take the bracelet. Only lobbying by the British ambassador had stopped Bobby from being arrested at the airport in front of cameras. Suarez said he saw what happened through the shop window and supported the version of Clara Padilla.
Ramsey leaves Moore in Bogotá
As it became clear that Moore might be detained for some time. Ramsey decided, with the World Cup just a few days away from beginning he had to go on to Mexico without his captain. Two FA officials (Dr Andrew Stephen chairman & Denis fellows, the secretary) remained in Bogotá to assist the England captain. Further help was provided by British Embassy officials. Bobby Charlton was not detained.
However, when Charlton saw that Moore was not at the airport, he approached Ramsey saying ‘Look I want to help all I can’. He suggested to Alf, he stay behind and reiterate his statement to the police of the England’s captain innocence. Quite brusquely, Alf said ‘you must get on that plane, Bobby, there’s no way you’re staying. We’ll let the politicians and the diplomats settle this.’
According to Jack Charlton (Team member and Bobby’s brother), Bobby ‘was very nervous’ until the flight actually took off. Some of the other players ‘were playing tricks on him’ as they waited. Jack told them to ‘lay off’. Alan Mullery believed, Ramsey saw Moore and Charlton as ‘his star players’. He said ‘There was a close bond between them. Mooro was a leader so was Bobby Charlton.’ Losing them, Alf would have been ‘devastated’.
Video: Bobby Moore Bracelet incident
Moore was held in a room in the Bogotá police headquarters while his fate was decided. He was ultimately charged, and faced with prosecution for theft. In light of the special circumstances, it was arranged that, rather than be sent to one of the city’s prisons, Moore was kept under house arrest at the home belonging to the Director of the Colombian Football Federation Alfonso Senior. He was allowed to train, so he could keep up his fitness, although he was constantly followed by armed police guards.
The England players thought the whole incident a ridiculous joke. Alan Mullery jested ‘With his money, Bob could afford to buy the whole shop’. Geoff Hurst described it as something from ‘Monty Python’. ‘A lot of baloney’ said Brian Labone (1940-2006) ‘It was a set-up’ claimed Peter Thompson (1942-2018). ‘A complete sham’ said Emlyn Hughes (1947-2004). ‘They picked on the wrong bloke’ exclaimed Norman Hunter. Alan Ball (1945-2007) made the point ‘Anyone who’s ever met that wonderful guy would know it’s a ludicrous suggestion’.
Alf Ramsey was becoming very concerned, making a contingency plan to play Norman Hunter in Moore’s central defensive role and make Alan Mullery the team’s captain. He was facing up to the possibility that he might lose Moore for the entire World Cup.
There was initially some confusion in the press, with the fact the alleged theft and Moore’s arrest had taken place several days apart. Due to Bobby’s status in the game, journalistic interest around the world was now massive, with all sorts of stories circulating.
Bobby Moore was generally perceived to be innocent and completely supported by manager Alf Ramsey. What was interesting was the former Brazil coach Joao Saldanha claimed when he had stayed at the hotel with his team Botafogo they had experienced a similar incident – in which jewellery had been hidden on them and money demanded in order to avoid a scandal. Due to this experience, Saldanha didn’t believe the allegations against Moore.
Court case & reconstruction
In Bogotá, Bobby was taken before a judge, Justice Peter Dorado, and questioned for four hours. He denied anything to do with a theft. Confused by the conflicting claims, Justice Dorado arranged for the authorities to stage a re-enactment of the incident with Moore and Padilla. Her version was undermined as she claimed that Moore had slipped the bracelet into the left-hand pocket of his blazer. It was demonstrated the blazer had no pocket on the left side. She then changed various parts of her story and eventually left in tears.
It was also questioned why the fresh witness, Alvaro Suarez waited four days to come forward? There were also conflicting suggestions to the value of the bracelet. Initially it was said to be valued around £625. But later it is claimed to be worth £5,000, while the owner of the shop requested £6,000 in compensation. As Moore was driven back from the re-enactment, cries of “Viva Bobby” could be heard from the streets.
Video: Bracelet scandal & Bobby Moore playing Brazil & West Germany 1970 World cup
British Prime Minister
Back home Prime Minister Harold Wilson was so concerned by Moore’s arrest that he requested repeated lobbying of the Colombian government by the British embassy in Bogotá. The Colombians were wary of creating what was fast becoming a diplomatic incident as the British Prime Minister made several calls to diplomates in an attempt to get Bobby Moore released.
In the passage of time, it emerged that Moore, avoided a full trial in Colombia because the head of the country’s secret police paid a nocturnal visit to a judge to “persuade” him to drop the matter. The unsung role of General Leyva, head of DAS, in allowing Moore to re-join his team for the World Cup in Mexico was disclosed in Foreign Office files released in 2001. Under British pressure, the authorities in Bogotá decided that extra-judicial action was required. On Tuesday 26 May 1970 British diplomats reported that Gen Leyva had visited the magistrate on the authority of the president. He apparently warned the magistrate that continuing the case would be “highly counter-productive” for the national interest.
On Thursday 28 May 1970, Moore was taken before Justice Dorado and told there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution. He was to be set free. However, the case remained open. Moore released a statement “I am happy to be set free and the allegations against me turned out to be groundless”. He promised to further co-operate with the Colombian authorities and thanked the Colombian people “for the many expressions of sympathy and support which I have received from them in the last few days”.
Bobby was put on a plane, destined for Mexico City. Arriving on Friday 29 May 1970 to absolute chaos with BBC commentator David Coleman and reporter Peter Lorenzo leading Bobby through the crowds of journalists and photographers, the barriers at customs and immigration had been charged down and everyone just pushed through. The coolest person in the mass mob was Bobby Moore completely unshakable. After the melee, he was taken quietly to spend one night at the home of Eric Vines, a member of the British embassy staff before flying on to Guadalajara the next day where the England team were based.
BBC Reporter gets exclusive interview with Bobby Moore on flight from Bogotá to Mexico City
Jimmy Greaves – World Cup Motor Rally
Footballer Jimmy Greaves who sadly missed out in the 1966 World Cup final playing for England. Had not been included in Ramsey’s squad for Mexico. So, decided to have a go at Motor Racing joining well known Rally Champion Tony Fall as co-driver in the 1970 World Cup Rally. A race promoter who had friends in The Football Association, thought up the idea allegedly at a dinner party. This being a motor rally featuring every country participating in the World Cup Finals. Finishing in the capital city of the host nation. It also gave an excellent opportunity to showcase the motor industry with sponsorship from the Daily Mirror newspaper.
Everyone was shocked and surprised, when footballer Jimmy Greaves entered. He had just moved from Spurs to West Ham (joining his friend Moore), a transfer he didn’t want, which made him very disillusioned with football. Not that he was going to become a professional driver, but the distraction was a welcome one. The competitors were started by Alf Ramsey inside Wembley Stadium. Then made their way through Europe (stage one), onto South America (stage two) arriving in Mexico City. Hopefully in time for the tournament. Greaves & Fall did rather well, finishing the tough 16,000 mile course in 6th position. 113 cars started, only 11 finished. This was not surprising particularly with some the South American terrain. Greaves recalled ‘we were travelling at speeds of up to 100mph on mountain roads that were built only for donkeys travel in mind.’
Jimmy drops in on Bobby
In a bizarre incident on the final South American leg of this competition in Mexico City. Greaves persuaded Fall and the Daily Express journalist Norman Giller to help him find the embassy where his best friend, fellow West Ham player Bobby Moore was being kept as a guest. Having discovered it, the cheeky Jimmy shined over the wall. “I got into the back of the house through some French windows,” Greaves said. “Mooro almost dropped his lager in surprise when he saw me approaching from the direction of the kitchen. He was even more surprised when I asked him where he’d hidden the bracelet!” The two best mates sat down to ease their troubles. It was a welcome amusing distraction to what was a very serious situation.
Video: World Cup Rally (Movietone news)
The next day, Alf Ramsey met Moore at the Guadalajara airport, where the England team were preparing to play their opening match against Romania. He was met warmly by Ramsey, who was relieved and delighted to see his captain. On entering the team Hotel, the England players lined up in a guard of honour to applaud him. Geoff Hurst & Alan Mullery both noticed Moore had lost weight and understandably looked tired. Mullery was Bobby’s room-mate, he recalled Moore entering the room soon after – ‘Mooro took off his tracksuit and threw it out of the window. I looked out and saw a crowd of Mexican boys fighting over the tracksuit down on the street. Bobby was always very particular about what he wore and how he looked. He must have hated being in the same clothes for days on end. So, the first chance he got, that tracksuit had to go’.
At dinner, Bobby announced to his team mates. ‘Forget what happened in Bogotá, I’m fine and if we all stick together, this can make us stronger.’ The respect Bobby Moore received from the players was eminence. It was his personal handling and dignity shown over this whole event which further helped lift Moore to iconic status.
Before Bobby Moore had returned to the camp, Alf Ramsey’s first move on arriving at Guadalajara was to ban the players talking to the press. Geoff Hurst recalled. ‘We were not allowed to leave the hotel under any circumstances. We withdrew into our bunker. The FA flew in English frozen food. We even had our own Bus driver flown to Mexico. Our charm offensive could not have upset more people had it been devised by Attila the Hun. Whereas the Brazilians and other teams were visiting schools, hospitals, gifts to the poor and compliments to the rich’. One can understand Ramsey’s paranoia with all that had gone on and his complete miss trust of anyone particularly the media. His thinking although insular was to protect his players and win England the World Cup again.
A Watch goes missing
Geoff Hurst revealed in his autobiography of another incident in the Guadalajara Hilton Hotel. This underlined the correctness of Ramsey’s nervous thinking. A local trader entered the foyer of the hotel, displaying a number of goods on tables. During the day some players mingled with other guests to look at the watches, rings, necklaces and gemstones. The jeweller was packing up. Alf went up to the players going into dinner. He quietly announced ‘there been a ‘theft’. ‘A watch had gone missing’. No one was being accused but the England party was high on the list of suspects. Ramsey suggested rather than risk further false allegations again. The team all put together and pay for the watch. Hurst recalls putting in ten dollars each. The jeweller went away happy. The accusation was a nonsensical one as with Bobby Moore. Ramsey asked the players to confide in no one.
More conspiracy theories
On 2 June 1970 Bobby Moore captained England to a 1–0 victory against Romania then went on to play arguably his best ever game for his country against Brazil and Pele. England eventually went out of the World Cup in the Quarter Finals after losing 3–2 to West Germany, after being 2-0 ahead. That day the team were without their world class goalkeeper Gordon Banks who had made outstanding saves in the teams group matches especially against Brazil. One so good, it was labeled the ‘Save of the Century.’
Banks had gone down with tummy trouble (montezuma’s revenge) in the hotel. Gordon had been careful what he ate, like all the other players, having been warned by the medical staff, but still he caught this bug. Due to England’s unpopularity at being the world champions and favourites to win, plus what was falsely perceived as an antagonistic attitude to the Latin continent, a feeling emerged, Gordon’s food or drink had been spiked, so to keep the highly talented England keeper from playing in this important match. At first Banks dismissed this, but in the passage of time he thought on the matter and believed it could have been a possibility.
Bobby Moore was widely praised for his performance during the tournament. A further Colombian investigation found nothing, apart from a possible extortion plot. Bogota chief of police Jaime Ramirez hinted that an eye-witness had been paid off. Moore had been the victim of a blackmail attempt. The Fuego Verde (Green Fire) jewellery shop was closed in the Hotel. The shop assistant Padilla fled to America, under increasing pressure and harassment over the case. Although, Moore due to the terms of his release and Charlton, had to attend a hearing at Bow Street Magistrates Court in December 1970 to reiterate their statements. After which the case was formally closed in November 1972. However, Moore did not receive Colombian legal notification as such until December 1975 (even then the wording of the letter was not to the satisfaction of Bobby).
1972: Bobby Moore interview after being cleared of theft
Despite being cleared the incident stuck with Moore. In some quarters has been suggested as a major reason why he was never awarded a knighthood. If this is true? It’s disgusting. As the general consensus is the incident was an attempted frame-up. Either to try to secure money from the England camp or possibly to have Moore ruled out of the World Cup, weakening England’s chances. Having been favourites, to win it again. ‘A Latin plot’ as described by Alf Ramsey to his players.
England defender Nobby Stiles who was on the trip. He thought like many it may be more to do than a ‘cheap scam’. He sugested ‘the real motive was to upset the reigning world champions who were still deeply resented in Latin America. After Alf’s ‘animals’ outburst at the end of the previous World Cup’. Ramsey’s reference was to the Argentina side England played in the 1966 quarter final. Whose tactics and behaviour most found appalling. Alf not allowing his players to change shirts after the match. On the Mexico trip there was animosity towards the England side. When the squad arrived in Mexico City. Poor Jeff Astle (Team member) who did not enjoy flying, took in a few drinks on board to help his nerves. On landing, a couple of players helped him through the lounge. The newspaper headlines the next day calling the team – ‘Drunks & Thieves.’
Another theory has occasionally been proposed. That a bracelet was taken by one of the other England players, possibly as part of a prank. Moore taking the blame to protect them. This was given credence by a comment Bobby Moore made shortly before his death, which seemed to hint at this. He told biographer Jeff Powell, ‘Perhaps one of the lads did something foolish, a prank with unfortunate consequences.’ However, this theory has been dismissed by Tina Moore, his wife at the time, and by Doctor Phillips. Despite this Powell insists ‘Bobby told me the truth .. but I promised I wouldn’t say anything.’
In 2003, ten years after Bobby Moore’s death, the Public Records Office released documents revealing that the Head of the Colombian police had been convinced of Moore’s innocence. He believed the main suspect to be an unnamed woman who allegedly offered to sell the stolen bracelet to members of the Colombian underworld. The exact truth remains a mystery and sadly the great Bobby Moore is no longer with us to shine anything new on the matter.
The fascinating events that took place in Bogotá have been recounted by many an England player and journalist who was on the trip. Where much of the above material has been referenced from, in their subsequent autobiographies, books and after dinner speeches. Some speakers being arranged through the Comicus office.
After dinner speaking
Comicus provides several ex-footballers, pundits, managers & commentators. Such as Chris Kamara, Glen Hoodle, Sir Geoff Hurst, Trevor Brooking, Harry Redknapp, Alan Mullery, Lou Macari,Kevin Keegan, Teddy Sheringham, Garry Richardson, Jim Rosenthal among many others for speaking engagements.
References & material
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.