To understand the Paul Getty kidnapping, you need to know a little bit about Getty family history. Paul, also known as John Paul Getty III, was the grandson of J. Paul Getty, the man who founded Getty Oil Company in the 1940s and became extremely wealthy. Despite his vast wealth, however, he was a very frugal man. He had all the money in the world, but was very particular about how it was distributed among his children and grandchildren.
Getty was such a miser that his fifth wife, Teddy Getty Gaston, revealed her ex-husband got upset with her for spending too much on medical treatments for their 6-year-old son, Timmy, who had a brain tumor. When Timmy passed away six years later in 1958, his father did not attend the funeral.
Knowing all of this, it doesn't seem too surprising that Getty refused to pay Paul's ransom after he was kidnapped in 1973. But was money really more important than blood?
Paul's Father Battled Drug Addiction, And His Stepmother Died Of A Heroin Overdose
John Paul Getty Jr. had four sons with his wife Gail Harris. Their son Paul was born in 1956, and the couple divorced when he was 8. Getty then relocated to Rome and married Dutch actress Talitha Pol. The pair allegedly became addicted to drugs, and Pol died of a heroin overdosed in 1972.
Police believed Getty was partially responsible for his wife's death, but he was never charged with a crime.
He Got Expelled From School And Lived A Carefree Life In Rome
When he was 16, Paul was living in Rome near his father, who was in charge of the family's Italian part of the business, Getty Oil Italiana. Paul lived on his own after getting expelled from a private school, and enjoyed life as a carefree teenager without any responsibilities. He partied at clubs and participated in political demonstrations.
He made money, meanwhile, by appearing as an extra in films and selling jewelry and paintings.
He Was Kidnapped At 16, And His Captors Asked For A Multi-Million Dollar Ransom
On July 10, 1973, the night of his kidnapping, Paul was reportedly hanging out in the Piazza Navona with a Belgian go-go dancer when he vanished. The Italian mafia grabbed Paul, placed him in the back of a van, and drove him 300 miles south of the capital to Calabria, which is surrounded by mountains.
His captors contacted Paul's family and asked for $17 million in ransom.
Paul's Family Thought He Made Up The Kidnapping Story To Get Money
Though kidnappings were common in Italy at the time, there was some doubt at first that Paul had indeed been taken. People believed he made it up in order to get money from his grandfather, who was notoriously stingy - even with his family. Paul was even known to joke about faking a kidnapping.
As a result, the police and some of Paul's family and friends didn't take him seriously. But Paul wrote a letter to his mother pleading for help. It was published by TIME on July 30, 1973:
Dear Mother: I have fallen into the hands of kidnappers. Don’t let me be killed! Make sure that the police do not interfere. You must absolutely not take this as a joke... Don’t give publicity to my kidnapping.