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The BBC's John Brain
"The stolen machine is a unique piece of history"
 real 28k

Director of Bletchley Park Christine Large
"Whoever got in by-passed security systems on the gate"
 real 28k

Monday, 3 April, 2000, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Reward offered for coding machine
Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park: Amnesty offered for opportunist thieves
A 5,000 reward has been offered for the return of an Enigma machine which was used by the Nazis to send coded messages during World War Two

The machine, worth about 100,000 and one of only three in the world, was stolen from the code-cracking Station X at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire on Saturday.

The reward is being offered by BT, owners of part of the site in Milton Keynes since the Second World War.

The missing Enigma machine
"It is a tragedy that the machine has been stolen," Alan White, director of BT's property division, said. "I would like to see it back in its rightful place with Bletchley Park Trust."

The enigma machine looks like an old-fashioned typewriter, but the codes it produced were so sophisticated the Germans believed they were unbreakable.

Enigma amnesty

Bletchley Park Trust director Christine Large said the trust and police were prepared to offer an amnesty if the machine was stolen by amateurs who wanted to return it.

"If it's some young twit who's just run off with it who realises it was a silly thing to do, or if it was a prank, we're not going to be heavy-handed with them," she said.

"Our priority is get the machine back in good condition."

She said the theft had cast a dark cloud over Bletchley Park.

"We would liken it to the theft of the Cezanne at Oxford's Ashmolean Museum."
Alan Turing
Alan Turing: Maths genius who worked at Station X
Thames Valley police say the machine was stolen on Saturday afternoon, when the centre's museum was open to the public.

Officers believe it was lifted from a glass display cabinet, where it formed the centrepiece of the main public display.

Security at the site is being stepped up since the theft.

Top codebreakers

The codebreakers of Station X are credited with shortening the war by several years.

The top secret site employed teams of mathematicians, linguists and chess champions. By the end of the war 10,000 people were working there.

Its work was so secret that even after the war its existence was not revealed. It was not until 1967 that details were made public, and some of its former workers later appeared on a television documentary about the station's historic achievements.

Winston Churchill had dubbed the staff as "the geese that laid the golden eggs, and never cackled".

The codebreakers included mathematician Alan Turing, seen as a genius whose pioneering work paved the way for modern computers.

The site was eventually scheduled for demolition, but a farewell party brought together 400 codebreakers whose stories were so fascinating it was decided to try to save the building instead.

Not only was that goal achieved, but the story of Station X is being turned into a 90m Hollywood blockbuster starring Harvey Keitel and Jon Bon Jovi.

Rock star Mick Jagger is a Bletchley Park enthusiast, and even owns an Enigma machine, but of a different type from the one stolen.

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