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Random Thoughts

The Getty kidnapping, part 4


As we have seen, John Paul Getty III was kidnapped in Rome on July 10, 1973. He remained a hostage until his famous grandfather, J. Paul Getty, paid the kidnappers $2.2 million. Young Getty’s captors released him on Dec. 15, 1973, after 154 days in captivity.

During the time he was held hostage, John Paul suffered greatly at the hands of the criminals who had snatched him off a street and confined him in a cave. He was physically tortured and emotionally abused.

The criminals cut off their captive’s right ear. The wound became infected and John Paul’s captors tried to doctor him – to keep him alive in order to get the ransom money. They gave him penicillin (to which he was allergic) and it caused him permanent physical damage from which he never fully recovered.

Getty’s kidnappers also had the teenager drink large amounts of alcohol to numb the pain he was experiencing and to keep him warm in his makeshift prison. Consequently, he spent the remainder of his life as an alcoholic.

Once he had been ransomed, Getty tried to live as normal a life as possible. He got married, and he and his wife had a son a year later. He accepted acting roles in at least two films.

But the aftereffects of Getty’s kidnapping plunged him into a miserable life of alcohol and drug abuse. All of this culminated in a drug overdose in 1981 that led to a stroke and left him a quadriplegic, partially blind, and without the ability to speak.

Perhaps John Paul’s kidnapping cannot be blamed for all of his substance abuse problems. He had grown up in a household where illegal drugs were commonplace. His father’s second wife, Getty III’s stepmother, died of a heroin overdose.

Certainly, however, the physical and psychological abuse Getty suffered while kidnapped exacerbated the problem. He was in a terrible and sad physical and mental condition for the last 20 years of his life, which ended on Feb. 5, 2011, when he was 54 years old.


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