A team of amateur detectives appears to have hacked one of the infamous Zodiac Keeler cryptic messages – more than 50 years after it was sent.

The killer was confirmed to have killed or shot five people in Northern California in the 1960s, although it is believed that he may have killed more.

It was dubbed the Zodiac Killer after sending satirical letters and mysterious zeros to police and local newspapers.

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An artist drawing based on a victim’s testimony about the Zodiac Killer

So far, one of the zeros – which was sent to the San Francisco Chronicle in November 1969 – has not been broken.

But three members of the audience, Australian software engineer Sam Blake, American cryptologist David Oranchak and Belgian software engineer Jarle Fan, say they were able to understand the codes, letters and numbers encrypted.

According to the hobbyist team, the 340-character code reads: “I hope you have a lot of fun trying to catch me that was lost on the TV show bringing a point on me. I’m not afraid of the gas chamber because I’m going to send me to heaven.”

“All soon because I now have enough slaves to work for me as no one else has anything when they get to heaven, so they are afraid of death because I know my new life will be one life in the heaven of death,” he continues.

Investigators had hoped the code would reveal the killer’s name, but the letter did not say so.

The San Francisco FBI arm said in a statement that the Cipher and Extortion Unit (CRRU) recognized and confirmed this work.

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Send one of the zeros to the San Francisco Chronicle
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Send one of the zeros to the San Francisco Chronicle
A police captain inspects the car door of a Zodiac Keeler victim in 1969
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A police captain inspects the car door of a Zodiac Keeler victim in 1969

“Over the past 51 years, CRRU has reviewed several solutions proposed by the public – none of them had an advantage,” she said.

“The code was recently resolved by a team of three ordinary citizens.”

Oranchak, who lives in Virginia, told The Chronicle that the discovery was “exciting”.

“We have been sitting on the solution since last Saturday,” he said. “When I started looking at zodiac zeros all those years ago, I thought, ‘Oh, I can just write a computer program and solve it,’ but he’s been kicking ** all this time. Until now.”

This is the second time that a code has been broken from the Zodiac Killer.

School teacher Donald Harden broke another of the zodiac symbols
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School teacher Donald Harden broke another of the zodiac symbols

The first, which was also sent to The Chronicle, was resolved by a teacher and his wife – but said a little otherwise: “I love killing because it’s so fun.”

The killer was never arrested, despite gaining notoriety, and the case is still active.