NEWS In Photos: October 21, 1973: 16-year-old John Paul Getty III’s ear is cut off by his kidnappers and sent to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike the ear does not arrive until November 8. It is starting to rot.
Eugene Paul Getty, as he was named at birth, was the son to Anglophile philanthropist and heroin addict John Paul Getty Jr II. once the richest boy in the world, heir to the fortune amassed by his father John Paul Getty. What the Gettys lacked in imagination for names they made up with cash.
His mother was Gail Harris. John Paul II left her to marry Talitha Pol, a granddaughter of Augustus John, the artist. She too became a drug addict. An overdose killed her. As one spotter observed, Getty was “so chronically addicted to smack that he was snorting a gram a day without managing to achieve any notable effect”.
The couple would live in The Pleasure Palace, a Moroccan pile where they hosted Roman-style orgies .
Two years after Talitha’s death, John Paul III, was kidnapped.
The family had years earlier moved to Rome where Paul II headed Getty Oil’s Italian operations. Now, with his parents elsewhere, John Paul Getty III was left to his own devices. He had been living in a flat in the Italian capital, working as an artist and nude model.
On July 10, 1973, a Mafia gang struck. The eight kidnappers chained him to a stake for five months in a cave in southern Italy. He was blindfolded and abused.
They issued a demand. Would the family pay the 1.7bn (£17m) ransom for the man the press dubbed “The Golden Hippie” ?
As the miserly John Paul Getty, then 80, said:
“I have 14 grandchildren, and if I pay a penny of ransom, I’ll have 14 kidnapped grandchildren.”
He also suspected it was a stunt cooked up by his grandson to con him.
To help the family to decide, the kidnappers hacked off the teenager’s right ear and posted it to a Rome newspaper, Il Messagero . A note with its stated:
“This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, the other ear will arrive. In other words he will arrive in little pieces.”
Getty II had little money of his own. But his father John Paul finally loaned him the $2.5m he needed to make up the ransom (at 4% interest).
Now released, John Paul Getty set about recovering. He never would, not fully. In 1977 John Paul Getty III underwent surgery at a hospital in Los Angeles to be fitted with a new ear.
Aged 18, he married Martine Zacher, a German model six years hie senior. Grandpa did not approve and disinherited him.
In 1981, John Paul III took a massive quantity of drugs and suffered a near-fatal stroke which left him paralysed and almost blind. Aged just 24 he was confined to a wheelchair. Only a court ruling made his own father pay his medical bills.
(Oddly, John Paul Getty II was knighted for his generosity, having given £50 million to the National Gallery, £40 million to the British Film Institute and £2 million for a new stand at Lord’s cricket ground.)
But John Paul Getty III was rich, thanks to a huge inheritance from his grandmother.
He died in 2011 at his Buckinghamshire mansion. He was 54.