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Code-breakers solve Zodiac Killer's cipher

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  • Tip Bones

After fifty years a team of code-breakers managed to decipher a letter (called the 340 cipher) that was sent from the Zodiac Killer to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969. The cipher was solved by A software developer in Virginia, David Oranchak; a Belgian computer programmer, Jarl Van Eycke; and an Australian mathematician, Sam Blake. The team sent their findings to the FBI.

The Zodiac Killer has been one of America's greatest unsolved mysteries. They're infamous for five murders they committed between 1968 and 1969 but has claimed that they murdered over 37 people. The Zodiac Killer ingrained themselves into the culture at the time by sending cryptic letters in code to newspapers and police stations along with bloody pieces of the victims clothing to confirm they really were the killer.

"It was incredible. It was a big shock, I never really thought we'd find anything because I had grown so used to failure," said Oranchak who's been working on the Zodiac code since 2006, "When I first started, I used to get excited when I would see some words come through - they were like false positives, phantoms. I had grown used to that. It was a long shot - we didn't even really know if there was a message."

The FBI released a statement on Twitter regarding the breakthrough. They said that the Zodiac case remains a continuing investigation and out of respect to the victims and their families, they will not comment further on the new evidence. The solved cipher has also been given to the San Francisco Police Department who passed the information onto their cold case homicide investigators.

The translated cipher has been released and is quoted below. Note: the word "paradise" is misspelled as "paradice" in the letter:

   "I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me

   That wasn't me on the TV show which brings up a point about me

   I am not afraid of the gas chamber because it will send me to paradice all the sooner

   Because I now have enough slaves to work for me where everyone else has nothing when they reach             paradice so they are afraid of death 

   I am not afraid because I know that my new life will be an easy one in paradice death"

The TV show the letter is referring to is "The Jim Dunbar Show," a talk show hosted in San Francisco at the time. Someone called into the show and claimed to be the Zodiac Killer, this cipher was sent two weeks after that episode.

The only disappointing thing about cracking this cipher, according to Oranchak, is that there is no hint to the identity of the Zodiac Killer. There are two remaining ciphers, however both are very short. Oranchak says that deciphering these will be "almost hopeless" as there are thousands of possibilities including names and phrases that could fit in the code.