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Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 23:50 GMT
Enigmatic return of code machine
Jeremy Paxman's first reaction was 'My God!'
Jeremy Paxman is awaiting verification of the machine
BBC television presenter Jeremy Paxman has received a wartime Enigma encoding machine.

It is believed to be the one stolen from Bletchley Park Museum, in Buckinghamshire, in April.

The heavily wrapped parcel arrived at Mr Paxman's office at Televsion Centre, in London, last week but was opened by the presenter only on Tuesday.

I have no idea why it was sent to me

Jeremy Paxman

The parcel was marked with the name P Smith and gave an address at 312 Sandhurst Road, in Birmingham. There is no such property.

But the house number is the same as the serial number stamped on the back of the machine casing.

Detectives have taken the machine away for forensic tests and have advised staff at Bletchley Park museum not to discuss the case further.

Museum officials had agreed to pay a 25,000 ransom for its safe return after deciding an ultimatum delivered among a string of letters was a genuine threat to the device.

Mysterious correspondent

The letter, written by a man calling himself The Master, demanded the ransom be paid by his 6 October deadline or the machine, valued at up to 100,000, would be destroyed.

He got back in contact with museum officials several hours after that deadline, although the content of those discussions remained undisclosed.

The author of the letters had claimed to be acting on behalf of a third party who unwittingly bought the machine in good faith, only to discover it was stolen.

Jeremy Paxman said on BBC Two's Newsnight programme: "I have no idea why it was sent to me."

Enigma countdown
1 April - Enigma stolen
September - first ransom note sent
October - final, fifth ransom note sent
He said it "looks like the real thing, it smells like the real thing and we're awaiting verification by experts."

He said the Enigma encoder was in a wooden box and smelled strongly of oil.

"As soon as I opened it an inch, I thought 'My God!'."

Directly after opening the package, the Newsnight presenter contacted Bletchley Park Museum director Christine Large.

She was excited by the discovery but disappointed to learn that three of the machine's four encryption wheels had been removed.

An Enigma wrapped inside a package
Jeremy Paxman: A perplexing delivery

Bletchley Park was the home of British military intelligence staff during World War II.

The Enigma team played a crucial part in cracking messages coded by the Nazis on Enigma machines.

Their work in cracking the Enigma codes - used by the Germans to direct operations including U-boat attacks on Allied convoys - proved vital to the outcome of the war.

The stolen Enigma is a rare four-rotor version, one of only three still known to be in existence.

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12 Sep 00 | UK
Enigma held to ransom
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