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Ruthless Boston-Irish gang leader James 'Whitey' Bulger convicted of killing spree

By David Usborne

James 'Whitey' Bulger, the one-time feared leader of the Winter Hill Gang, which terrorised much of south Boston through most of the 1970s and 80s, was found guilty yesterday of murder and racketeering, exposing him to a likely sentence of life behind bars.

The verdicts came at the end of a tumultuous trial that evoked a distant era when south Boston and the white Irish-Catholic underworld had to some become almost synonymous. The jury said prosecutors had proved that Bulger had orchestrated or participated in 11 of the 19 murders cited by them. Once the most-wanted man in America, Bulger, now 83 years old, had fled Boston in 1994 after a tip-off from a crooked FBI agent that he was about to be arrested.

It was more than 16 years later, in 2011, that he was finally tracked down and arrested living in a modest apartment in Santa Monica, California.

An unidentified woman taunted him as he was being led out of the courtroom in Boston's main courthouse, mimicking the firing of a machine gun and shouting: "Rat-a-tat-tat, Whitey!" Bulger himself stood motionless during the reading of the verdicts with no visible expression on his face.

The two-month trial, which had gripped the public imagination and led to long queues outside the court each day, also provided an uncomfortable reminder of the cosiness that once existed between the underworld and the FBI, and the corruption that afflicted the agency as it purported to fight violent crime.

While it said that Bulger's involvement in eight other murders cited in the case had not been proved, the jury otherwise delivered a near-complete victory for the prosecution, finding Bulger guilty of 31 of 32 of the counts against him. Prosecutors had told the court he was a hands-on boss who was personally responsible for Winter Hill's long reign of terror.

The murders were incorporated in the main racketeering charge, which also spanned extortion, drug dealing and money laundering, crimes with which the underworld everywhere has been associated.

The jury also heard how many of Bulger's crimes were committed while he was also an informant to the Boston FBI.

Bulger is set to be sentenced in mid-November.

Trial prosecutors portrayed Bulger as a ruthless, cold-blooded man who killed some of his victims with his bare hands. Two women victims were strangled by him.

He shot two men he had chained to chairs to interrogate them.

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