Has The Zodiac Killer's Secret Code Finally Been Cracked?

California has had more than its fair share of serial killers, but surely one of the most notorious was the Zodiac Killer, who terrorized the Bay Area during the late '60s and early '70s. Not only was he taking innocent lives, he was also taunting authorities with a series of letters containing hidden codes sent to a local newspaper. The Zodiac took credit for the deaths of more than three dozen people, but investigators only linked him to seven attacks, per Biography. It was a case that bewildered authorities as they tried to decode the mysterious ciphers the killer sent to The San Francisco Chronicle. In total, Zodiac mailed four ciphers to the Chronicle but, until recently, only one was solved. It is known as the Z-340 letter. 

Despite decades of criminal experts and amateur sleuths attempting to solve the remaining letters, years went by with little progress — that is, until recently. Last year, a team of three men from Australia, Belgium, and the United States, solved the more than 50-year-old mystery of the Z-340 cipher, per The New York Times

A possible answer to a decades-old mystery

New developments in the case, however, are making news. A French engineer has claimed to have found the meaning behind the codes of the remaining Z-13 (the shortest of the bunch), and Z-32 ciphers (via The New York Times). The man claiming the code-cracking victory is 38-year-old Fayçal Ziraoui — a French business consultant who has dedicated his time during pandemic restrictions to deciphering the Zodiac killer's letters. But unlike the previous two resolutions, Ziraoui claims his attempt also discloses the identity of this unknown killer who has never been caught.

Ziraoui came to his solution by using the same encryption key the trio who solved the Z-340 in December used. In using the same format for the other two ciphers, he even created a program to help him solve it, says the Times, and, in just two weeks, Ziraoui believes that he solved the last two ciphers, zeroing in on the name "KAYR," which he believes may have been an encryption error by the killer and should be interpreted as "KAYE." While police did have a suspect at the time named Lawrence Kaye, he was never been proven to have anything to do with the murders.

By sharing his news with a sometimes-hostile forum of dedicated fanatics, he's no doubt stirred up some controversy that he left longtime followers of the case split, with some considering his findings valid, and others doubtful. It is uncertain if investigators will determine if Ziraoui has indeed cracked the Zodiac killer's secret code, but time will tell.