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The BBC's George Eykyn
"The mystery of Bletchley Park goes on"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
'No ransom paid' for Enigma
Jeremy Paxman's first reaction was 'My God!'
Jeremy Paxman and parcel in the Newsnight office
Police have said no ransom was paid for the return of the Enigma encoder delivered to BBC television presenter Jeremy Paxman.

They said the machine "would appear" to be the one stolen from Bletchley Park Museum, in Buckinghamshire, in April but forensic tests on the wartime device have begun in earnest.

Detectives also issued an appeal for the return of three missing encryption rotors, without which the machine was useless.

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.

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.

Mysterious correspondent

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.

Staff at Bletchley Park museum have been advised by the police not to comment at this stage.

The heavily-wrapped parcel arrived at Mr Paxman's office at the London Television Centre, in White City, last week but was not opened by the presenter until 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.

Mr 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."

Mr Paxman 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 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, helped by Polish experts, played a crucial part in cracking messages encoded by the Nazis on the 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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