Top Five Famous Kidnappings

by on 18/05/12 at 9:32 am

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Started the trend.

5. Charley Ross: Basically, this case, in 1874, was the first case of kidnapping for ransom in the US, and despite the fact that the kidnappers didn’t ever get any money (and Charley was never heard from again, though his family sought him for years), it quickly became a popular crime, right up until the Lindbergh kidnapping . . .   Kidnapping remains popular in certain other countries.


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Ward of the Pope.

4. Edgardo Mortara: In 1858, in Bologna, located in what is now Italy and was at that time the Papal States controlled by the Pope, a maid baptized six year old Jewish child Edgardo Mortara, making him Catholic. Because it was illegal at that time for a Christian child to be raised by Jews, Edgardo was then taken away to be raised by the Catholic Church, with the parents allowed only very minimal contact with him. This case became a cause celebre throughout Europe, with numerous Christians and Jews horrified at the Pope’s power to remove a child from his parents. It was referred to by family supporters as a kidnapping, though of course the Pope did not consider it to be such. The outcry was so great that it was one of the reasons why the Papacy lost control of its papal states, so that now the Papacy only has Vatican City under its control. The child was a ward of the Pope, and eventually became a priest. The case is back in the news because the Vatican is seeking to canonize Pope Pius IX, the Pope involved in the case.


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Yet another cause celebre.

3. Elian Gonzalez: In 1999, Gonzalez was taken by his mother and her boyfriend on a fragile boat in an effort to travel to the US from Cuba. The boat foundered and his mother drowned.The traumatized boy was rescued and taken in by some American relatives. However, his father in Cuba wanted him back. His American family refused to send him back to Cuba, and most of the Cuban-American community in Florida supported keeping him in the US and away from his father. The whole thing became a cause celebre and pitted the largely Republican Cuban-American community in Florida against Democratic President Bill Clinton. The refusal of the family to turn Elian over to his father was considered by many to be a kidnapping. Ultimately, the case may have impacted the 2000 presidential election, because it may have lost Al Gore votes in Florida due to his relationship to the case.


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C'mon, grandpa!

2. J. P. Getty III: In 1971, 15 year old John Paul Getty III, grandson of billionaire oil magnate John Paul Getty, was kidnapped. The tightfisted  oil magnate refused to pay the $17 million ransom, suspecting it was a ploy by the teen to get money from his grandfather. He dithered for many months, until his grandson’s ear was mailed to him with a threatening note to send more bits if he didn’t pay the ransom. Eventually he agreed to give his son $2.2 million, because it was tax deductible, and lend his son the rest of the ransom money, with interest. After more than 6 months in the hands of the kidnappers, the teen was freed for $2.9 million. The case was very sensationalized at the time. The impact on JP Getty III cannot be calculated, but he quickly became a drug addict and alcoholic and his health was destroyed. Drug use led to him becoming a quadriplegic by age 25.


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The most famous kindapping of them all!

1. Charles Lindbergh Jr: One of the most sensationalized crimes of the 20th century, Charles Lindbergh’s eldest child was kidnapped on March 1, 1932, when 20 months old. The search for the kidnappers and subsequent trial were similarly sensationalized. It looks as if the child was killed within moments of being kidnapped—most likely the kidnapper accidentally dropped him while carrying him down the ladder he’d used to climb up to the child’s 2nd floor bedroom. Public anger was so great that anti-kidnapping laws were greatly strengthened, which ended up greatly reducing kidnapping rates in the US, which up until the Depression was a quite popular crime. Meanwhile, the controversy continued for decades as the widow of the convicted and executed kidnapper continued to fight to clear her husband’s name—there was good evidence of him being guilty of demanding a ransom, but not much evidence of him actually being the kidnapper. It might be that he just took advantage of the circumstances to extort money, while the real kidnappers were frightened off by the child’s death and the publicity.'


Bethany is a senior staff writer for E-Verse Radio, known for her trademark top five lists. She currently resides in Los Angeles.

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