Whitey Bulger's Downfall: Saving a Stray Cat with Miss Iceland

The former Noxema model who dropped the dime on the mobster collects $2 million

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The fugitive mobster James J. "Whitey" Bulger and his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, were turned in to authorities this year by a neighbor, a former Miss Iceland and Noxema model who befriended Greig as they cared for a stray cat. As with everything else in this story, why not?

The Boston Globe tracked down Anna Bjornsdottir, who knew Bulger and Greig as Charlie and Carol Gasko, until she saw a CNN broadcast about Bulger's criminal past on CNN, back in Reykjavik.

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.

It was this bond, formed over the cat, that proved the downfall of one of America’s most wanted men, South Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, after 16 years on the run.

That story is the lead of the Globe's massive recreation of Bulger's years on the lam, a huge effort to explain how he was able to survive for years as one of the country's most notorious fugitives.

Partly it was caution. Bulger refused to allow workmen to repair their Santa Monica apartment, perhaps because he had weapons and $800,000 in cash stashed in the walls. And they had help:

Bulger’s most important alter ego belonged to James William Lawlor, a destitute alcoholic with a resemblance to the gangster who gave Bulger his California driver’s license in exchange for money to pay the rent at a cheap motel. When Bulger needed to buy prescription drugs, drive a car, or dip into a bank account, he became Lawlor, even changing the man’s height and eye color on a state-issued identification card to match his features.

But mostly, the couple lived an isolated life, barely traveling, increasingly penned in by the FBI's efforts to pressure family members and friends to give them up. As the country celebrated the killing of Osama bin Laden in May, Bulger greeted the news with dead. Bin Laden had been the only name above his on the FBI's Most Wanted list. His time was coming.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.