Here we look into a list of famous people who were kidnapped in the 20th century.
1. Frank Sinatra Jr
They initially wanted to kidnap Bob Hope’s son because he was richer, but then they thought Bob Hope’s reputation of being a humanitarian might not be good for their image. Sinatra Jr was released two days later after his father paid the $240,000 ransom. The kidnappers were soon captured, prosecuted, convicted and initially sentenced to life plus 75 years, but eventually through appeals they won lesser sentences.
2. John Paul Getty III
He was the grandson of John Paul Getty, the founder of Getty Oil Company, then the richest man in the world. Paul was kidnapped in 1973 by the ‘Ndrangheta and held for $17 million ransom. He was 17. His grandfather who was famously frugal, refused to pay it. He thought it was a ploy by his rebellious grandson to extract money from him. But when an envelop arrived with Paul’s severed ear, John negotiated and agreed to pay the ransom, which was now reduced to $2.2 million. Paul was released, five months after he was kidnapped.
3. Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr
This was the most famous kidnapping of the 20th century. He was the son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh. He was kidnapped when he was 20-month-old from his house in New Jersey on 1 March, 1932. The child’s corpse was discovered two months later by a truck driver, about four and a half miles southeast of the Lindbergh home. The corpse was partly buried and badly decomposed. In September 1934, a German immigrant carpenter named Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested for the crime.
After a trial, he was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. The trial was referred to as one of the “trials of the century”. H. L. Mencken called the kidnapping and trial “the biggest story since the Resurrection”.
4. Patty Hearst
She was the granddaughter of American publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. She was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) in 1974. She was 19 years old. The SLA released audiotapes demanding millions of dollars in food donations in exchange for her release. Hearst’s father took out a loan and arranged the immediate donation of $2 million worth of food to the poor of the Bay Area. The SLA then released a tape with Hearst saying that she joined their fight to free the oppressed and had taken the name ‘Tania.’ Later she was spotted, robbing a bank wielding an assault weapon on a bank surveillance cameras with SLA.
Patty was eventually found and arrested 19 months after she was abducted. By this time she was a fugitive and wanted for serious crimes committed with SLA. At her trial, Patty testified that she had been raped and threatened with death while held captive. The prosecution argued that she joined the SLA with her own will. She was convicted for the crime of bank robbery and sentenced to 35 years in prison, later reduced to 7 years. She spent 2 years of her 7 year sentence in jail, until President Carter commuted her sentence. She was later pardoned by President Bill Clinton.
5. Alfredo Di Stéfano
He was one of the greatest footballers of all time. He played for the Spanish club Real Madrid. On 24 August 1963, he was kidnapped by the Venezuelan revolutionary group Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN). He was in Venezuela with Real Madrid, on their tour of South America. The objective of the kidnapping was, FALN wanted the world to know of the existence of armed insurgency in Venezuela. Di Stéfano was released unharmed two days later without a ransom being paid. Di Stéfano stated that his kidnappers had not mistreated him.
6. Juan Manuel Fangio
He was an Argentine racing car driver who won five Formula One world championships. On February 23, 1958, when he was in Cuba to attend the Havana Grand Prix which was organized by President Fulgencio Batista, he was kidnapped from his Havana hotel by rebels supporting Fidel Castro. The race was scheduled on the next day. The kidnapping was done to force the cancellation of the race and to embarrass President Batista internationally. He was released unharmed 29 hours later. He remained a good friend of his former captors. Fidel Castro and his rebels took over the Batista’s government in January 1959.
7. Tammy Wynette
She was an American country music singer-songwriter known for her tumultuous marriage to country music singer George Jones. On October 4th, 1978, she was allegedly abducted at gunpoint from a Nashville mall parking lot. She claimed the masked attacker physically assaulted and abandoned her 80 miles south of town. Wynette was documented with bruises and a broken cheekbone. Police hunted for the men, who were believed to have fled in a blue estate car after the incident, but no trace of them was ever found. Jackie Daly, one of the singer’s four daughters, alleged in her 2000 memoir that Wynette had confessed to her that the kidnapping was a hoax to cover up domestic violence from her fifth husband, George Richey. Even to this day, the crime is unsolved.