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John Paul Getty III

Today marks 10 years since the death of John Paul Getty III. Despite having an interest (possibly a genetic one) in true crime and being fully aware that kidnapping and brutal murder was rife in the 1970s, I found myself horrified when I learned this man’s story.

The 70s were infamous for the likes of Bundy, Dahmer, Gacy and the Zodiac committing horrible, evil crimes across America and yet despite knowing about that, it is hard to imagine a story like this taking place in beautiful, idyllic Italian locations such as Calabria and Rome. Of course, crime has always existed, but this decade saw better data collection and record keeping so I suppose one could say the knowledge surrounding crime had progressed and that, combined with the media, made all these cases go viral, or at least the 70s equivalent of going viral.

I cannot fathom how terrifying this ordeal must have been for young Paul (aged just 16) and what a difficult decision his grandfather faced. Morally speaking, I will admit I understand his grandfather’s rationale when originally refusing to pay a ransom of $17 million (equivalent to $98 million!), arguing that his other grandchildren could also become kidnap targets if he paid.

I find it hard to wrap my head around the fact that he had to be mutilated before a lower ransom of $3.2 million ($18.4 million equivalent) was agreed. Fortunately, he was then found at a petrol station in Lauria, Potenza on December 15th, 1973, having been kidnapped from the Piazza Farnese, Rome on July 10th, 1973 – amounting to just under 5 months of fear, mutilation, being incredibly sick and psychological abuse.

Not all his life was this terrifying thankfully. I read that he was in movies, consorted with Andy Warhol’s arty set in New York and had a child. I don't think he ever got over his early trauma and I certainly don't blame him! It is incredibly sad that he was severely handicapped following a drug and alcohol addiction. Sadly, one lethal cocktail of Valium, methadone and alcohol caused a stroke, quadriplegia, partial blindness and left him unable to speak. Despite some rare glimpses of happiness, I find his story tragic.

More details of the young life of John Paul Getty III can be found in John’s Painfully Rich and is portrayed by Harris Dickinson in Danny Boyle’s Trust and Charlie Plummer in Sir Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World, based on Painfully Rich.

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