A French engineer claims to have cracked the Zodiac Killer’s code in just two weeks, doing something that people have spent half a century trying to decrypt what was deemed impossible to decrypt.
Fayçal Ziraoui stumbled found an article in a French magazine in December claiming that no one had ever soled the two ciphers from the Zodiac killer who unleashed hell on San Francisco Bay Arena in the 1960s and 70s, he thought, “why not me?”
Many believed that after 50 years the Zodiac killer would never be named, with cryptographers, police, and amateur code breakers being left baffled for so long.
Just two weeks after starting his journey to revealing who the killer was, the 38-year-old claims to have cracked the two ciphers, with one of the two revealing the killer’s identity, by using an encryption key that only came to light in December along with a variety of code-cracking techniques.
The amateur code breaker took to dozens of forums in excitement but was met with a barrage of abuse as enthusiasts and fanatics alike were quick to debunk his claims.
One of his posts was deleted by a moderator, with people commenting on his other posts questioning his credibility and findings.
One person wrote, referring to the two ciphers known as Z32 and Z13: “I don’t believe it for a second.”
Another commented on zodiackillersite.com, a popular forum: “When he says that it took two weeks to crack the Z32 and an hour for the Z13, I think that sums it up pretty well.”
Looking back now, Mr Ziraoui realised he jumped the gun going into a tight-knit community with what he saw as definite results.
Youssef Ziraoui, his brother and a journalist in Morocco, told The New York Times: “He came in and told them ‘end of the game’. But these people don’t want the game to end.”
It still remains foggy over whether the case will ever be closed, with the killer puzzling police detectives for decades and being the plot for a Hollywood film.
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The FBI declined to comment after Mr Ziraoui sent them his findings.
Ziraoui, a freelance business consultant, thought nothing of the code-breaking but a fun activity to kill time during the coronavirus pandemic and at the time of beginning his code-breaking quest had never even heard of the famous killer who was suspected of five murders in the late 1960s but who himself boasted of 37 killings.
Many Zodiac fanatics deem the remaining cypher simply unsolvable due to them being too short to figure out an encryption key leaving an untold number of solutions.
Mr Zirauoi determined that the killer may have used the same code for the cypher solved in December on the two remaining cyphers, Z32 and Z13. After the encryption key was made public, Mr Ziraoui got work.
He used the key to determine Z32, a cypher that gave the address of a bomb set to go off in a school in 1970, which luckily never detonated despite police never cracking the code.
The amateur codebreaker then worked through half a dozen steps to identifying coordinates in numbers and using a code-breaking program he created to put jumbles of letters into words.
He was left sleepless during this time, with the thoughts of the code consuming him every waking moment of the day, and the gruesome details of the murders waking him in the night, leaving him in a constant state of anxiety.
Mr Ziraoui told the New York Times: “I was obsessed with it, 24 hours a day, that’s all I could think about.”
After an intense two weeks, he managed to form the sentence: “LABOR DAY FIND 45.069 NORT 58.719 WEST.”
This referred to a location near a school in South Lake Tahoe, a city in California that had been referred to by the killer before.
After that, he excitably moved onto Z13, which to his surprise only took an hour to decrypt, with the killer’s name being the result.
After about an hour, Mr. Ziraoui said he came up with “KAYR”, which he realised resembled the last name of Lawrence Kaye, a salesman and career criminal living in South Lake Tahoe who had been a suspect in the case. Mr. Kaye, who also used the pseudonym Kane, died in 2010.
This left Mr Ziraoui sure that the result was too much to simply be a coincidence.
Mr Kaye had been the subject of a report by Harvey Hines, a now-dead police detective, who was certain he was the Zodiac killer but was unable to convince his superiors.