J. Paul Getty III, an oil-fortune heir known as the “golden hippie” whose kidnapping in Italy at 16 made international headlines and whose captors severed his ear when his family didn’t initially pay his ransom, has died. He was 54.

Getty had required intensive medical care since 1981, when he suffered a narcotics-induced stroke that left him paralyzed and nearly blind. He died Feb. 5 at his home in Buckinghamshire, England, according to British news reports.

He was a grandson of billionaire J. Paul Getty Sr., who founded the renowned California museum that bears his name and was once the world’s wealthiest man. Young Getty spent much of his childhood in Rome, where, in July 1973, he disappeared.

His kidnappers sent word that they wanted $17 million, an amount J. Paul Getty Sr. refused to pay.

The stalemate broke only after an Italian newspaper received a package containing a lock of red hair and a severed ear.

The captors agreed to release Getty in exchange for $2.8 million in cash. Getty Sr. said the money was a loan that he expected to be repaid at 4 percent interest.

Getty never fully recovered from the experience and was troubled by nightmares when he descended into the drug addiction that led to his 1981 stroke.

If Getty’s kidnapping had revealed intergenerational tensions among the Gettys, his new medical needs exposed gaping rifts. He needed $25,000 a month for around-the-clock care. His father, who had become extraordinarily wealthy after the 1976 death of Getty Sr., and who was known as a generous philanthropist, refused to help pay.

A California judge forced Getty Jr. to assist his son.

Getty Jr., who was knighted in Britain for his charitable work, died in 2003.