A team of amateur detectives appears to have hacked one of the infamous Zodiac Keeler cryptic messages – more than 50 years after it was sent.
The killer was confirmed to have killed or shot five people in Northern California in the 1960s, although it is believed that he may have killed more.
It was dubbed the Zodiac Killer after sending satirical messages and mysterious zeroes to police and local newspapers.
So far, one of the zeros – which was sent to the San Francisco Chronicle in November 1969 – has not been broken.
But three members of the audience, Australian software engineer Sam Blake, American cryptologist David Oranchak and Belgian software engineer Jarle Fan, say they were able to understand the codes, letters and numbers encrypted.
According to the hobbyist team, the 340-character code reads: “I hope you have a lot of fun trying to catch me that was lost on the TV show that brings a point on me. I’m not afraid of the gas chamber because I’m going to send me to heaven.”
“All soon because I now have enough slaves to work for me as no one else has anything when they get to heaven, so they are afraid of death because I know my new life will be one life in the heaven of death,” he continues.
Investigators had hoped that the code would reveal the killer’s name, but the letter did not say so.
The San Francisco FBI arm said in a statement that the Cipher and Extortion Unit (CRRU) recognized and confirmed this work.
“Over the past 51 years, CRRU has reviewed several solutions proposed by the public – none of them had an advantage,” she said.
“The code was recently resolved by a team of three ordinary citizens.”
Oranchak, who lives in Virginia, told The Chronicle that the discovery was “exciting”.
“We have been sitting on the solution since last Saturday,” he said. “When I started looking at zodiac zeros all those years ago, I thought, ‘Oh, I can just write a computer program and solve it,’ but he’s been kicking ** all this time. Until now.”
This is the second time a code has been broken from the Zodiac Killer.
The first, which was also sent to The Chronicle, was resolved by a teacher and his wife – but said little other than: “I love killing because it’s so fun.”
The killer was never arrested, despite gaining notoriety, and the case is still active.