As we enter a major postal strike, spare a thought for John Paul Getty III. Aged 18 he was kidnapped in Rome on this day, 21st October, in 1973.
A ransom demand was sent to his father for $17 million to ensure his safe return. A lock of his hair and his right ear were sent in the post to prove that it was not a hoax.
Unfortunately, because of an Italian postal strike, the ear and the ransom note were delayed in the post until 8th November!
To ensure that there was no further mutilation $3.2 million should be paid immediately, the note read:
“This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits.”
As you will have noticed the deadline had expired by the time the note arrived. But, John Paul (Snr) agreed to pay as long as his son (Jnr) repaid him at an interest rate of 4%. There was some reluctance for them to pay at all, by all accounts, because the boy (III) was quite wilful, and there was a great deal of suspicion that the whole event was a hoax, orchestrated by him.
Eventually John Paul III was found in Southern Italy in December, without his ear.
So, if there is one positive thing to come out of postal strikes, it is a particularly bad time to send ransom notes, so we might hopefully see a drop in kidnappings during them.
Lord Mandelson might, however, encourage any potential kidnappers to use another means of communication to send the ransom notes.