Cryptanalysts crack coded message from infamous Zodiac killer

The identity of the Zodiac killer who terrorized the Bay Area and surrounding counties in the late 1960s is one of American true crime’s most enduring mysteries.

The perpetrator was an attention-seeker who taunted police and contacted the media, often writing in a code he apparently invented himself.

Over the years, several potential suspects have emerged (read about them here), some of whom are now dead. But the case remains active with police agencies (including the FBI), and continues to fascinate amateur sleuths.

One of the coded messages (image, right), “A bizarre puzzle thought to have been sent 51 years ago by … Zodiac … may have finally been solved by an international team of coding experts,” Huffington Post reported on Friday, December 11, 2020.

“The three codebreakers believe they have decrypted the 340 cipher ― named for its number of characters ― and the solution may provide clues that lead to the murderer’s identity,” Huffington Post said (read story here).

This is the second Zodiac coded message (of four sent) to deciphered, but like the first one — the “408 cipher” — this one doesn’t contain the killer’s name (that would be pretty stupid, unless he had a death wish, and was trying to get caught). But it contains more information, which could help steer investigators toward a particular suspect and/or away from other possible suspects.

The latest decoded statements include “I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me” and refers to collecting “slaves to work for me” so he will have an easy life “in Paradice” (sic), pointing to a possible motive for the killings (although that could also be a cover to throw investigators off the trail). For the complete text of the message, click on the link to the Huffington Post story above, or go to the San Francisco Chronicle story here.

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