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French Engineer Says He Cracked Remaining  Zodiac Ciphers, Including One Revealing The Serial Killer’s Identity

Fayçal Ziraoui's claims have been met with intense skepticism in the online forums devoted to the Zodiac Killer case.

By Gina Tron
The Zodiac Killer Case, Explained

A French engineer claims to have cracked the two remaining ciphers created by the Zodiac Killer, including one purportedly revealing the serial killer’s identity. However, both the Zodiac and cipher communities aren't exactly buying it.

Fayçal Ziraoui became inspired to crack the ciphers back in December after learning that code-breakers solved another mysterious cipher created by the killer, the New York Times reports. A team from the United States, Australia, and Belgium seemingly solved the so-called "340 Cipher" the elusive killer sent to The San Francisco Chronicle 52 years ago. 

That cipher is one of four disseminated by the serial killer, responsible for terrorizing Northern California by committing five brutal murders between 1968 and 1969. All the while, he taunted the public about his crimes, infamously sending the media coded messagesThe first cipher was cracked by private citizens in 1969. High school teacher Donald Harden and his wife Bettye were able to decode the message, which read in part “I like killing people because it is so much fun."

Two remaining ciphers, dubbed "Z13" and "Z32" have long remained unsolved, much to the frustration of many as Z13 was sent to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1970 with the statement "My name is" followed by 13 letters and symbols, tantalizing sleuths that the killer's identity was within reach.

However, Ziraoui claims he cracked both in two weeks using the key used to solve the 340 Cipher, so-called because it contained 340 characters and symbols. He told the New York Times that he figured out the killer’s identity in about an hour. He came up with “KAYR,” which is close to Lawrence Kaye, once eyed as a possible suspect in the case. Kaye, a salesman and career criminal, lived in South Lake Tahoe. He died in 2010 and was never officially named a suspect.

Ziraoui claims he found further evidence through his decoding to show that Kaye was the killer. He deciphered the sentence, “LABOR DAY FIND 45.069 NORT 58.719 WEST” in Z32, which refers to coordinates based on the earth’s magnetic field and which Ziraoui says match up near a school in South Lake Tahoe. Z32 was also received by the Chronicle in 1970, along with a postcard threatening to "wipe out a school bus,” according to SFGate. 

Ziraoui began posting about his findings in January on ZodiacKillerSite.com, a forum where sleuths discuss the ciphers and overall theories on the case. His explanations can be read here.

His claims have been met with significant skepticism within the online community. A moderator removed his comments within 30 minutes of posting, arguing that the cipher was too short to be solved at all.

“I don’t believe it for a second,” on commenter on zodiackillersite.com wrote. “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.”

His January posts on “The Zodiac Killer — Unsolved & Unforgotten,” claiming that he solved the ciphers, have also been removed by the moderator.

David Oranchak, part of the international code-breaking team who solved 340, told the New York Times, "it is practically impossible to determine if any of them are correct” because they're too short to verifiably establish a pattern.

However, both David Naccache, a cryptographer and professor at École Normale Supérieure in Paris, and Emmanuel Thomé, a cryptography specialist at France’s National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology, told the New York Times that Ziraoui’s methods are legitimate. 

Ziraoui graduated from École Polytechnique and HEC Paris, the country’s top engineering schools. He is currently a freelance business consultant. He expressed to the New York Times that solving the codes was the easy part; now, his mission is to prove he is right.

Ziraoui has not immediately responded to Oxygen.com's request for comment.