Irish-American gangster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger found dead

Notorious criminal (89) believed to have been killed by inmates in West Virginia prison

Irish-American criminal James "Whitey" Bulger was found dead in a West Virginia prison on Tuesday, bringing to an end the life of one of America's most notorious gangsters.

Reports suggested that the 89-year-old was killed by fellow inmates with links to the mafia.

Mr Bulger, a key figure in the Irish-American mobster world of south Boston who was also involved with the IRA, had been moved to the West Virginia Penitentiary from a facility in Florida on Monday.

It was his role as an FBI informer that perhaps most surprised his associates

Once dubbed America's most wanted man, he spent 16 years on the run before he was tracked down living under a false name in Santa Monica, California in 2011. He was tried and found guilty of 31 crimes, including the murder of 11 people. Many of the victims' families wept openly as Bulger was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms at his 2013 trial.


A brutal criminal, Bulger was a mythical figure in the blue-collar regions of south Boston where he was raised. But it was his role as an FBI informer that perhaps most surprised his associates. Bulger worked as an informant for the FBI for years, securing protection for many of his most heinous crimes in exchange for providing information to law enforcement officials about the Boston Mafia.


As a major figure in the south Boston criminal underworld, he became involved in Irish Republican activity. In 1984 his Winter Hill Gang arranged for a fishing trawler, the Valhalla, to transport seven tons of weapons across the Atlantic to the IRA. After the cargo was transferred to another vessel it was intercepted by Irish authorities. Some weeks later, John McIntyre, a member of the Valhalla crew, was arrested in Boston on a separate incident and told police about the gun-running. A corrupt FBI official, John Connolly, informed Bulger. McIntyre was tracked down by Bulger, tortured brutally and killed. His body was found in 2000.

Despite widespread rumours during his years on the run of sightings in Ireland, Bulger is believed to have spent his time as a fugitive living incognito in California.


Born to an Irish-Canadian father and Irish-American mother, Bulger and his family moved to Boston when he was nine. He also spent time at the notorious Alcatraz prison in San Francisco after he was convicted on bank robbery charges in the late 1950s.

While Whitey devoted his life to crime, racketeering and violence, his brother William rose to political prominence in the state of Massachusetts, becoming president of the Massachusetts State Senate and president of the University of Massachusetts.

Bulger's life was the inspiration for Martin Scorsese's film The Departed, about the Irish-American criminal world in Boston, which won four Academy Awards.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent