Old gangsters' feud rekindled

Last updated 17:27 19/07/2013
Stephen 'The Rifleman' Flemmi
DOESN'T LIKE 'WHITEY': Stephen 'The Rifleman' Flemmi is in court testifying against fellow mobster James 'Whitey' Bulger.

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Hot tempers were expected in a US courtroom today as a former top fugitive was set to face his former gang partner, who is testifying about their years as secret informants for the FBI.

One thing that has really angered James 'Whitey' Bulger in court is being called a ''rat''. And former partner Stephen 'The Rifleman' Flemmi began his testimony yeasterday with details of how he and Bulger were secret informants for 15 years while they ran a murderous Irish mob in Boston.

Flemmi, a ruthless underworld executioner, said he heard Bulger give information to FBI agent John Connolly ''hundreds of times'' over 15 years.

Bulger insists that he was never an informant and told people that being a ''rat'' was the worst thing anyone could do, according to testimony.

The two men - Bulger, 83, and Flemmi, 79 - glared at each other in the courtroom and exchanged obscenities.

Prosecutors said the two men ran the Winter Hill Gang for more than 20 years, making millions by extorting drug dealers, bookmakers and loan sharks.

Bulger is accused of participating in 19 killings during the 1970s and '80s. Flemmi pleaded guilty to 10 killings, extortion, drug distribution and other charges. He is serving a life sentence.

Flemmi said he hasn't seen Bulger since 1994, when they got tipped off by their former FBI handler that they were about to be indicted.

Bulger fled and became one of the nation's most wanted fugitives for more than 16 years until he was captured in California in 2011.

Before Flemmi took the stand, word spread through the courtroom that a former liquor store owner who had been eager to testify against Bulger had been found dead.

Authorities said a jogger discovered the body of 59-year-old Stephen ''Stippo'' Rakes. Prosecutors said an autopsy Thursday found no signs of trauma. 

Prosecutors said Rakes and his former wife were forced to sell Bulger their store in 1984 to use as a headquarters for his gang and as a source of legitimate income.

''The day I see him in a box, not breathing, will be better,'' Rakes earlier said.

But when prosecutors listed their remaining witnesses for the judge, Rakes wasn't among them.

Rakes was upset when he left the courthouse this week, said Steven Davis, the brother of one of Bulger's alleged victims.

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- AP

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