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'I was tragic John Paul Getty's private nurse'

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Sandra Farrell worked as a private nurse for oil heir John Paul Getty III, who was kidnapped in the 1970s

Sandra Farrell worked as a private nurse for oil heir John Paul Getty III, who was kidnapped in the 1970s

John Paul Getty III

John Paul Getty III

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Sandra Farrell worked as a private nurse for oil heir John Paul Getty III, who was kidnapped in the 1970s

An Irish woman running in Tipperary for Fianna Fail in next Saturday's General Election, who previously worked as a private nurse for the billionaire John Paul Getty III, has spoken for the first time about her experiences.

Sandra Farrell cared for the oil heir after he was kidnapped, had an ear severed, became a drug addict and ended up in a wheelchair after suffering a stroke. Although barely in his 40s, he struggled with mobility and communication difficulties and it was Sandra, his youngest nurse at just 21, who brought him out of his shell and reawakened his spirit.

"We used to head bang to his favourite band The Doors," she says. "That's what I brought to Paul, that [life] he missed out on after his accident. He was like a big brother to me."

Tucked away in his mansion in the Tuscan hills in the Italian countryside, Sandra's new life was a world away from the council estate she grew up in Nenagh, Co Tipperary. The miner's daughter would read the daily newspapers to Paul each day and his favourite pastime was hearing about the stars - many of whom he had close friendships with.

Legendary punk rock star Patti Smith "rang Paul every week and would sing down the phone to him", recalls Sandra.

Paul was heir to the massive Getty fortune and belonged to one of the richest families in the world when he was kidnapped in 1973 by the Italian Mafia for a ransom. The family's money was made in the early 1950s when Paul's grandfather, J Paul Getty, founded the Getty Oil Company, one of the largest in the United States at the time. Just two days after his disappearance, his mother received an anonymous call demanding $17m. The 80-year-old J Paul Getty reportedly replied to the request: "I have 14 other grandchildren and if I pay one penny now, then I will have 14 kidnapped grandchildren."

Four months into the abduction, the kidnappers cut off Paul's ear and sent it to a newspaper with a note stating: "This is Paul's ear. If we don't get some money within 10 days, the other ear will arrive." Getty senior relented and decided to make a deal with the kidnappers for $3m in return for his grandson.

Sandra said the one lesson she learned from Paul was how to overcome fears. "Paul and his mother decided to return to the place where he was kidnapped, and had his ear severed, so that he could face down his fears."

While living in the remote Tuscan hills she says the family "insisted the doors were never locked so he wouldn't live in fear".

Sandra remained friends with Paul until his death in 2011.

Sunday Independent