John Paul Getty III, whose life was marred by tragedy brought on in part by his family’s vast wealth, has died in Britain aged 54, a statement from his son said on Tuesday.
“Balthazar Getty today confirmed the passing of his father John Paul Getty III this past Saturday, February 5th, in England,” the son’s spokesman said in a statement issued in Los Angeles, where Balthazar Getty is an actor.
As a teenager, John Paul Getty III was kidnapped and held for five months in Italy by a gang who cut off one of his ears, while his family argued whether to pay the ransom.
He later suffered a drug-induced stroke that left him paralyzed.
However, his son said he “never let his handicap keep him from living life to the fullest and he was an inspiration to all of us, showing us how to stand up to all adversity,”
“We will miss him terribly,” Balthazar Getty said.
John Paul Getty III, who had two children and six grandchildren, was surrounded by his family when he died, his son said.
Born in November 1956, Getty grew up in Italy where his American father, John Paul Getty II, had been sent to manage the interests of the family business set up by oil magnate John Paul Getty.
When his parents divorced, he remained with his mother, Gail Harris, in Rome, and by his early teens was partying hard, trying his hand as an artist and living the life of the “Golden Hippie,” as he was dubbed by the press.
However, on July 10, 1973, after a night out, the long-haired 16-year-old was kidnapped.
After a ransom note was delivered, his mother sought help from her ex-husband and Getty’s grandfather, but there was an argument among them about whether the kidnapping was a hoax.
In November, a Rome newspaper received an envelope containing a lock of red hair and a decomposing human ear, followed soon after by a photograph of Getty with his ear cut off. The kidnappers promised to send the rest of him piece by piece.
The Gettys paid a ransom worth a reported US$3 million and the teen was finally freed on Dec. 15, 1973.