cipher from California serial killer solved after 51 years

<span>Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP</span>
Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP

It took 51 years and a team of experts from three countries to crack the code to a cipher left by the still unidentified Zodiac Killer, who haunted northern California communities in the 1960s and 70s. But, on Friday, the code-breaker David Oranchak revealed for the first time, the ominous message sent by the murderer.

“I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me,” the message, sent to the San Francisco Chronicle in November 1969 in a series of symbols, reads. “I am not afraid of the gas chamber because it will send me to paradise all the sooner because I now have enough slaves to work for me.”

The FBI confirmed that the news of the cracked code is the real deal, but said it does little to help investigators in the decades-long search for the serial killer.

“The Zodiac Killer terrorized multiple communities across northern California and even though decades have gone by, we continue to seek justice for the victims of these brutal crimes,” the FBI spokeswoman Cameron Polan said in the statement given to the San Francisco Chronicle, which broke the story.

Polan added that the Zodiac Killer case remains an ongoing investigation for the San Francisco division. “Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, and out of respect for the victims and their families, we will not be providing further comment at this time,” she said.

Related: The Zodiac Killer has been a mystery for 50 years – but one man thinks he’s solved it

This is the second Zodiac cipher that has been cracked. The first was solved quickly by a local couple. Much like the code exposed today, the first served only to terrify and provoke. It revealed little about who the killer was – only the heinous reason behind the spree: “I like killing” the code read, “because it is so much fun.”

The Zodiac Killer is officially tied to five murders in the Bay Area that occurred in 1968 and 1969. Two additional victims escaped, and many more crimes are believed to have been committed by the person who claimed responsibility for 37 deaths.

The killer, believed to be a white man, began contacting newspapers in 1969 and phoning the police, identifying himself only as “Zodiac”. He often sought publicity for his grisly crimes, threatening newspapers with additional murders if they refused to print his ciphers. There were four codes total, one in which the killer said his identity would be revealed. Though several theories have been floated through the years on Zodiac’s identity, he has evaded detection by authorities across five decades.

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