The clues that led to James 'Whitey' Bulger's capture
Whitey Bulger was arrested after a tip led officials to his California apartment.
October 11th, 2011
10:59 AM ET

The clues that led to James 'Whitey' Bulger's capture

Fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger and his girlfriend Catherine Greig had been on the run for more than 16 years. Bulger was on the FBI's Top 10 Most Wanted list in relation to 19 mob-related murders as head of a South Boston Irish gang before he fled an impending racketeering indictment in 1995.

So how exactly were officials able to take the big mobster down after so long?

In short, it's because of a stray cat, the watchful eye of a former Miss Iceland and a chance viewing of an FBI report on CNN, according to an extensive report by the Boston Globe.

Bulger and Greig were going by the names Charlie and Carol Gasko while on the run. They were a May-December couple living in the heart of sunny Southern California, just two blocks from the beach and an upscale outdoor mall, in a town known for its unapologetic liberalism.  They were largely quiet and polite neighbors. Nothing they did seemed to mirror the lore Bulger had created after disappearing or his mobster persona, which became the inspiration for the 2006 Martin Scorsese film "The Departed."

Life on the lam: Bulger, girlfriend enjoyed ocean breezes, fine dining

Instead, they were seen as gentle people who neighbors had sympathy for. According to the Globe, Bulger and Greig had convinced people that he had Alzheimer's disease. And although they stayed inside and to themselves often, they found a friend of sorts outside their apartment in Santa Monica.

That's where Greig came upon a stray cat. She had no idea at the time that their affinity for the cat would be a key clue that led to their arrest after being on the lam.

The Boston Globe began their story this way:

"At least a twice a day, Carol Gasko would crouch on the sidewalk in front of her Santa Monica apartment building to feed an abandoned, tiger-striped cat while her husband, Charlie, stood by protectively. They brought Tiger to the veterinarian when he was sick and kept his picture on their wall.

Their devotion caught the attention of Anna Bjornsdottir, a former actress and Miss Iceland 1974, who lived in the neighborhood for months at a time and sometimes stopped to chat while they fed the tabby.

'Isn’t she nice?' Bjornsdottir said of Gasko to a neighbor."

Boston Globe reporter Shelley Murphy spoke to "The Early Show" about the months she spent researching how Bulger lived after his disappearance.

During her reporting she learned the cat which Bulger had become fond of had to stay outside on the streets - because Bulger's apartment didn't allow pets inside.

"Apparently, Whitey liked the cat," Murphy told "The Early Show."

"He would be out there this morning while his girlfriend fed this cat," Murphy said.

It was that very ordinary bond - between a person and pet - just like the ordinary life and facade Bulger and Greig were trying to maintain that led to the capture of one of the most reputed mobsters.

A seemingly harmless chain of events - a rule about pets, feeding a cat and meeting  and talking to Anna Bjornsdottir about the cat - set off a chain of events that led to the major FBI arrest.

The meeting coincided with the timing of an FBI effort to ramp up its attempts to catch Bulger. They launched a publicity campaign, airing ads about Greig in 14 markets across the country where the couple was known to have ties, authorities said.  Media across the country picked up the story.

Meanwhile, Bjornsdottir was back home in Reykjavik, Iceland, watching CNN when she saw a pair of familiar faces, according to the Globe report.

It was the Gaskos, she had thought. Then Bjornsdottir learned their real names and what they were wanted for.

Beyond the 'Whitey' Bulger lore: 19 murder victims

"With a phone call to the FBI, Bjornsdottir ended one of the longest and most expansive manhunts in FBI history and brought Bulger home to face charges that he had killed 19 people, some of whose bodies were unearthed while the gangster was posing as a retiree in Southern California," The Boston Globe reported.

At first, the FBI didn't give the name of the tipster who received the $2.1 million reward for his capture.

But after the Boston Globe's extensive reporting, the paper thought it was necessary to print the story of how Bulger's arrest ultimately came down, and editors insisted they made sure publishing Bjornsdottir's name wouldn't be a problem.

“We were confident Whitey Bulger and Cathy Greig knew exactly who the tipster was,’’ Jennifer Peter, the Globe’s deputy managing editor for local news, said in a column explaining their decision. “We asked people directly involved in the investigation if she would be in danger if we named her. No one told us she would be in danger at all.’’

The Globe's report netted several new details about Bulger and Greig's time on the run, including how and when they chose to be secluded, the cover of a homeless man that Bulger sometimes used and how Bulger grew even more worried that officials were after him following Osama bin Laden's death since he topped him on the Most Wanted List.

Bulger and Greig are both now in Boston awaiting trial. They have both pleaded not guilty.

soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. Bimbo the Birthday Clown

    There's an old mob saying, never trust an Icelander. Or maybe it's just a new mob saying.

    Nude jumping jacks for peace and prosperity, Nov 1 at noon, in front of your local city hall. We'll make history. Or something. Anyway, be there.

    October 11, 2011 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    Count me out!

    Seriously, two pieces of trash are where they belong...

    October 11, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  3. bristoltwit palin... America's favorite dancing cow.

    ... snort ...

    October 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dan

    Why isn't he on the gurney already? This is ridiculous, he killed a guy once over three days, made him suffer. beg like a dog! Why is this POS allowed to breathe, eat on my tax dime?

    October 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Really???

    So, he got caught because of a P U S S Y? ROFL. May they rot in jail & hopefully croak as soon as possible.

    October 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bud

    Is it not funny how horrible people can be so cold and without conscious. I realize the Bulger probably killed only those associated with organized crime but to torture and make people suffer, that is sadistic. It shows he did not kill because it was his job but he killed because he enjoyed it. In affect he was a serial killer of sorts. Even most professional assasins simply get the job done, no dramatic torture or I got you moment. They just finish the job and move on. In fact really good assasins you never see coming. They are scarry, and efficient but you likely won't suffer much. It's quick and clean. For me personally the scariest kind of assasin is the profesional one, you likely won't have time to react. Good Day, Joe.

    October 11, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buka Seluar

      Are you an expert on 'professional assassins', or just watch a lot of tv and movies?

      October 11, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. BobZemko

    This is exactly why I hate cats.

    October 11, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. VirtualDavid

    And, how's the cat?

    October 11, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Yo Mama

    Who is feeding the cat now? That's the most important part of the whole freaking story.

    October 11, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ure Ateup

    I am sure Mrs. Iceland took the cat home to Iceland with her by now...after all that tiger striped cat got her $2.1 mil.

    October 11, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. martinmunson

    Alleged crimes. Remember, he told wickedimproper . com that having money and guns isn't a crime. Plus, he's old, he deserves a chance to live out his life in relative peace.

    October 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • trollsRstupid

      need I say more...

      October 11, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bugmenot

      He deserves squat

      October 11, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Marquedmark

    Did anyone at the globe bother to ask Ms. Iceland with her name being published to confirm to a sadistic serial killer with connections who his accuser was? It is great how CNN justified the Globe's position on why they released it without questioning it.

    October 11, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • mewho

      Yeah that's the part of the story that irked me. I'm glad that they can be so "confident" that they have put her in no danger by revealing her name. (I'm sure I would totally know that the woman who talked to me while I fed a cat was the one who turned me in....makes perfect sense.)

      October 11, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. G

      To: MEWHO

      You are right, the media would sell their mother's soul for a "Scoop".

      October 11, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ArchieDeBunker

    Why aren't the Wall Street Brats picketing Ms. Iceland's house? After all, she stole that money from them and they deserve to have a good healthy chunk of it! She didn't do anything to deserve that much money! Make her pay!!

    October 11, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kimi853

      Archie-you make no sense what so ever. She stole that money?? How so? This is a wanted mobster, not to mention #1 on FBI's list now that Bin Laden is gone. Did you read this article at all, or are you just plain stupid?

      October 11, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. G

      Who did you want to get the money? O. J., Casey Anthony or perhaps the 9/11 terrorist's families. Miss Iceland was observant and deserves the money.

      I learned this late in life (40) be observant, look around and it will pay off!

      October 11, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allen Maui

      Kimi853 I think Archie was making a sarcastic remark in relation to the current "Occupy Wall Street" crowd. I don't think you are in a position to call someone stupid...

      October 11, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kimi853

      I apologize

      October 11, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • notatall

      why would the brats of wall street people want to picket ms Iceland? A bunch of rich spoiled kids picking on an old lady?

      October 11, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Guest

    Now if they could just get Nicholson..

    October 11, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Guest

    "The Departed" is the English version of the Chinese movie "Infernal Affairs" and was not based on this case.

    October 11, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Tell that to Wiki, smart guy!

      October 11, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
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