John Paul Getty drama — an exclusive interview with his former security guard

From left: Malcolm by the tree armed with a shotgun, Getty, a German baroness and  advisor Norris Bramlett.
From left: Malcolm by the tree armed with a shotgun, Getty, a German baroness and advisor Norris Bramlett.

As a new drama series about the billionaire continues, Malcolm Dewhurst shared his memores of a 'great man'.

A former security guard for the world's richest man has told his side of the story of John Paul Getty and his oil empire.

Daffodils in the grounds of Sutton Place, Surrey

Daffodils in the grounds of Sutton Place, Surrey

Malcolm Dewhurst, 64, from Bosham, worked at Sutton Place, Surrey, with four other security guards from 1973 to 1976, when Getty was aged 80 and during the time Getty’s grandson was kidnapped for ransom.

Malcolm worked for the billionaire from the age of just 19 and said his favourite part of the job was taking trips to London with him, some of which included Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.

He recalled one particular trip, driving to London in a metallic blue Cadillac, and Getty decided he wanted stop off at Woolworths in Kensington High Street.

According to Malcolm, Getty walked into a photo booth to get a picture for his passport, all the while his four security men stood guard outside.

Contrary to an episode of Trust on BBC 2, which follows the Getty story, in which Getty is portrayed as having flown in a helicopter, Malcolm said the oil magnate was actually ‘petrified’ of flying and although Getty had always wanted to go and see the John Paul Getty Museum in Malibu he never went.

Malcolm said: “We were all ready to go to California with him. If he went, we went. But in the end he said no.

"He was very superstitious rather than religious. He’d been told that if he ever flew again there was a possibility of him dying in a plane crash so he wouldn’t do it.

“He was walking on a beach somewhere and a gypsy read his fortune who said you’ll be married five or six times and you shouldn’t fly.”

Getty was driven around in two Cadillac Sedan DeVilles. Security guards who smoked would drive in the back Cadillac while Malcolm, who didn’t, would drive with Getty and the chauffeur.

“A lot of people have him down as totally miserable but he was a very nice guy,” said Malcolm. “That’s exactly what he was – a real gentleman.”

Malcolm said he was told by Getty’s advisor, Norris Bramlett, that against what had been said of Getty not paying the ransom due to his frugality, he had actually decided it wasn’t wise to give in when he had a ‘whole bunch’ of grandchildren – putting them at risk of kidnapping, too.

Malcolm said: “It was all kept as quiet as it could be and we’d gone to London one day with him to Penelope Kitson’s house and she was in her lounge with him and we sat in her kitchen drinking tea, she’d come running in grabbing a bottle of brandy and we all jumped up and said ‘what’s wrong?’.

Malcolm said what was wrong was that Getty was on the phone with the men in Italy who had kidnapped his 17-year-old grandson, John Paul Getty III. Malcolm said the security team was told to keep it quiet as Getty had just agreed to pay the money but didn’t want the world to know.

Getty was 80 when Malcolm first began working for him and he carried out his role up until Getty’s death in June 1976. “I helped to put him in the commode on the evening before he died. He spent the last three months of his life in the study. By then we knew it was the end.

“Just before I finished duty and one of the nurses, Jody, said ‘I don’t think he’s going to make the night.’ “So I put him in the commode, went home and when I came in the next morning, he had died.”

Malcolm took John Paul Getty III to his grandfather‘s memorial service as his ‘last job’.

“He came out the house and met me and he was petrified,” said Malcolm.

Malcolm said Paul III wanted him to stay with him.

“He was really concerned about his welfare.”

A car had been hired for the memorial service and Malcolm said one of Getty’s grandchildren had asked to stop off briefly, although it wasn’t in the schedule. As the
car pulled to a stop and as the door opened there was Bianca Jagger, ex-wife of the famous Rolling Stones frontman.

Getty’s son (Getty III’s father) got in the car with sunglasses on, a suit and trainers, Malcolm said.

“I thought, ‘they don’t go with your suit’. We dropped him just before the church and he got out with the grandchildren.
“We went up the steps to the memorial and that was my very last job for him.”