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UK Confidential Monday, 1 January, 2001, 00:53 GMT
London pressure over Moore arrest
Bobby Moore receiving the World Cup, 1966
The only silverware Bobby Moore was really interested in...
When England soccer captain Bobby Moore was arrested in Colombia just before the 1970 World Cup finals for alleged shoplifting, British diplomats spared no efforts to secure his release, documents reveal.

England stars Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton were questioned on the eve of the Mexico 70 World Cup Finals - a tournament England were expected to win - about the alleged theft of an emerald bracelet from a hotel gift shop.

The bracelet had gone missing when they were in Bogota, Colombia, for warm-matches before going on to Mexico.

Prime Minister Harold Wilson was pressuring diplomats to do all they could to get Moore cleared of the allegation, according to documents disclosed under the 30-Year-Rule.


We ensured that the magistrate concerned was privately made aware of the awkward implications of the case for Colombia

British diplomat
Such was the arm-twisting instigated in London that Colombia's security service chief was even persuaded to visit the judge in the case to warn him of the ramifications if Moore were to be held any longer.

The initial allegations against the two footballers were dismissed by the Bogota police as a set-up.

But a week later, with the England team back in Colombia, the police had an arrest warrant for Moore after information from an alleged new witness.

Learning of what could have turned out to be a sporting catastrophe - if not a full-scale international incident - British embassy officials took the drastic measure of cabling the Foreign Secretary while he was at a Nato planning meeting.

"We ensured that the magistrate concerned was privately made aware of the awkward implications of the case for Colombia because of the strong interest of British and world opinion," the diplomat wrote.

The documents reveal that the Colombians agreed to "stretch" the law so that Moore could stay at the home of a local football official rather than in jail - "a very considerable concession" the official noted.

Moves in London

Back in London, the Foreign Office devoted some of its best brains to the emerging crisis.


If Mr Moore's case is not settled, the Prime Minister would like urgent advice on whether he should himself send a personal message to the President of Colombia

Downing Street official, 1970
Officials cabled the Bogota embassy and warned: "No subject is more calculated to arouse public interest here.

"You must go on doing everything you can to help sort out what I trust was a misunderstanding, and to secure that he is allowed to proceed to Mexico as speedily as possible."

So moved was the Prime Minister to intervene, that he sent a message to the FA President, Lord Harewood, assuring him the embassy was on the case.

"I have asked to be kept informed of further developments and I will ensure that you are told the moment there is any further news," he assured him.

Pressure increased

By May 28, Wilson asked for the pressure to be stepped up.

"If Mr Moore's case is not settled in the course of today, the Prime Minister would like urgent advice on whether he should himself send a personal message to the President of Colombia, particularly having regard to the growing evidence of delay caused by administrative inefficiency," an official wrote.

But happily, it was soon resolved.

Just six days before Moore was meant to be leading England onto the field in Mexico, he was cleared of all charges - and the judge even said that he hoped the England captain would go on to score many goals.

  • Though the Foreign Office didn't quite forget the mini-crisis straight away.

    A month later, when the ambassador met President Lleras, he suggested that Colombia should place an upcoming defence order with the UK, to help soothe British public opinion.

    "The President seemed to think the point a reasonable one and said he would bear it in mind," the ambassador remarked.


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