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World Cup trophy is back at scene of crime mystery
It has been hailed as one of sport’s greatest mysteries.
On Sunday, November 1, 1970, the Rugby League World Cup trophy went missing from the Midland Hotel in Bradford and was not seen for 20 years.
The magnificent silverware was swiped from an open display at the Forster Square hotel, which was being used as a base by reigning World Cup champions Australia at the time.
And nothing was known of its whereabouts until it was found dumped in a ditch among rubbish at Bradford and Bingley Rugby League Club by Bradford dad-of-four Stephen Uttley in 1990.
But on Sunday, the 2ft 6in trophy will return to the site of the theft as it makes one of its last stops on a tour before the Rugby League World Cup kicks off later this month.
Hotel manager Gary Peacock insists it will be in safe hands this time.
“I can assure everyone that we will not be taking our eyes off it throughout its stay!
“We look forward to welcoming back the magnificent Rugby League World Cup Trophy to the Midland Hotel over 40 years after it checked out unnoticed.”
The story of the missing trophy was extensively covered in the Telegraph & Argus when it was found in 1990.
It was discovered by Mr Uttley, an unemployed roofer, after answering a call of nature near the Bradford and Bingley rugby ground.
He handed it to the police, who returned it to him, but it was eventually identified from a picture in the T&A.
It was then taken to the RFL’s headquarters in Leeds, where, at the time, spokesman David Howes said: “It is like the return of the Holy Grail. No-one knows what its value is, but in rugby league terms it is priceless".
At the time, Mr Uttley, who was given rugby tickets, said: “All I wanted was to return it to the right person. I just wanted a few tickets for me and my friends to see the next match.”
The trophy’s discovery was a relief for then 75-year-old Eddie Woodhead, a night porter at the hotel, who had been the police’s number one suspect when the silverware disappeared.
He told the T&A: “I know I was the number one suspect when it was nicked. The police came into the hotel and said to me ‘what have you done with it Eddie?’ “They asked me where the trophy was but I hadn’t a clue.”
The historic trophy will be on display in the lobby of the Midland Hotel from 11am until 1pm on Sunday and members of the public are invited to take photographs of the trophy.
Tony Collins, Rugby Football League historian, said: “The disappearance for 20 years of the Rugby League World Cup trophy is one of the great sporting mysteries but fortunately it is one with a happy ending.
“It will be a little slice of sporting history when it re-appears in the lobby at the Midland Hotel.”