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. Donna S.

    He'll probably never make it to trial...he knows to many embarrassing things about the FBI.

    October 11, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • zombie

      I like turtles.

      October 12, 2011 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
    • S1N

      I love turtles too, but prefer dogs. They both go great with hot sauce, though.

      October 12, 2011 at 7:02 am | Report abuse |
  2. ampeg

    Maybe he can get a job as Attorney General, He isnt as corrupt as the one we have now!

    October 11, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • fu

      SHADDUP already – fool!

      October 12, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  3. Maxpayne

    another man falls victim to the, um, ..... cat.

    October 11, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ArchieDeBunker

    Kimi 853 – You're right – it makes no sense at all for the Wall Street Protesters to expect to get money from this lady. And it makes absolutely no sense for them to demand money from wealthy people on Wall Street either. Sorry you didn't catch the sarcasm in my post. Maybe you're the one who needs a little more good sense, if you believe the Wall Street Brats' demands are justified . . . . .

    October 11, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • fu

      You miss the point – dumba$$ – they are protesting the corruption – FOOL!

      October 12, 2011 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  5. nixliberals

    Save us the details and just shoot the whole bunch!!!!!

    October 11, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. MMeans

    Yes, what a great catch!!! An 80 year old retired gangster. I am SO happy you protected the public from him instead of going after those harmless Wall Street guys.

    October 11, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rod C. Venger

    Since the police never released the tipster's name, did the Globe really need someone to tell them not to print it? Was there ever a news conference where the name came out or any information of who was getting the reward? No? Then the Globe blew it,, and maybe got this lady killed. Nice going Boston!

    October 11, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • buckko000

      The tipster Anna Bjornsdottir better go in hiding. Whoever said she would NOT be in danger if they printed her name was beyond crazy. We're talking about Mobs and Gangs here, not who tattled on someone for picking their nose while driving !!!!! The only reason I can think of as to why they would do something soooooo stupid by printing her name, was they are setting her up as a decoy. Because if they are looking for "associates" all they have to do is stake out her residence. They'll be there for sure. IDIOTS !!!!!

      October 12, 2011 at 6:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. ToonPirate

    What happened to the cat?

    October 11, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rich

    The obvious solution to this problem is massive tax cuts for the super rich.

    October 12, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  10. SFC Mike

    Wonder what kind of reward the cat got? 😀

    October 12, 2011 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. frontgate

    haha, deadbeat mobster, will spend the rest of his miserable life in a cage.

    October 12, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  12. ArchieDeBunker

    fu – the corruption is not on Wall Street – – the corruption is in the Government! The whole economic mess was started by the Liberal Socialists in the government who insisted that "all those poor people should be able to buy houses" (can you say "Barney Frank" and "Maxine Waters" – good Marxist Liberal Democrats, like Obama himself). Houses that they could never afford. And it was started by people who borrowed tens of thousands of dollars on their credit cards to maintain (for a while) a life style they couldn't afford. So now everyone wants to blame the wealthy – just because they are wealthy. B. S.!!! BTW – I am most decidedly not wealthy. But I did work hard all my life for what little I have.

    October 12, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      You are so wrong on all your issues. Is your information source Glen Beck?

      October 12, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  13. driranek

    Moral of the story – when on the lam, trust nobody from Iceland?

    October 12, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Marc L from NY

      That's not what I get form the story. For me, moral of the story- cats suck.

      October 12, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  14. Marc L from NY

    I think common sense just says that naming the person publicly who was responsible for the arrest of the most sought after fugitive in this Country puts that person's life at risk.

    October 12, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  15. Richard

    This poor woman is going to be looking over her shoulder for the rest of her life. The Globe made money on this story and was motivated by money to identify this woman. Therefor the Globe should be forced by law to provide for this woman's safety forever, no matter the cost.

    October 12, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
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