Credit: Shutterstock/John Paul Getty III

I wish money wasn’t that important, but it’s the most important thing in the world

Some people become famous as a result of a single dramatic event which overshadows everything else. Such was the case with John Paul Getty III. His kidnapping at the age of sixteen was undoubtedly the defining event of a life which ended nearly forty years’ later.

Kidnapped in Rome and bundled off to a hideaway in a tiny fishing village, Paul was held to ransom for $17 million (around $95 million today). At first, his family thought it was a money-making scheme on Paul’s part, but a second ransom note made it clear the situation was no joke. But the elder Getty refused to pay up – fearing that by doing so, it could jeapordise the safety of his other grandchildren.

When Paul’s father received an envelope through the post containing a lock of his son’s hair and one of his ears with a further warning, Getty senior paid up a month later – after cutting a deal to pay $2.9 million to the kidnappers, part of which sum he required Paul’s dad to pay back with interest. He was found alive at a petrol station on December 15, 1973.

People have speculated whether the kidnapping was not a ploy on Paul’s part, which got out of hand. He later said he never expected his grandfather to pay up, saying he might have had the same doubts about handing over hard-earned money to criminals.

Paul dabbled in acting for a time, but had turned to drugs and became a quadriplegic after taking a drugs cocktail which caused a stroke. He was just 25. For the rest of his life he needed support around the clock and was being cared for by his mother when he died.