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Monday, 1 April, 2002, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Paxman returns Enigma machine
Jeremy Paxman and parcel in the Newsnight office
Jeremy Paxman's first reaction was "My God!"
Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman has officially returned the Enigma machine to its home at Bletchley Park to mark the second anniversary of its theft.

The World War II encoding machine has not been on display at the historic Buckinghamshire code cracking centre since a thief took it during an open day.

It was eventually mysteriously posted to the BBC presenter following months of protracted ransom demands.


The Abwehr machine is particularly important in understanding our history

Christine Large
The theft of the machine, said to be worth 100,000, prompted a nationwide police hunt, ending with the arrest of antiques dealer Dennis Yates.

Last October the 58-year-old father of three from Sandiacre, Derbyshire, was jailed for 10 months for handling the stolen machine.

He was freed in January after serving less than three months, still protesting his innocence but admitting he had posted the machine to Paxman.

The Abwehr G312 Enigma machine was used by the Nazis to encode secret messages between their armed forces until it was captured by the Royal Navy.

Enigma film

An elite group of academics and codebreakers at Bletchley Park set to work on it and their success is said to have saved thousands of lives and shortened the war by up to two years.

It was loaned to Bletchley Park for safekeeping by GCHQ and remained there until it was stolen on 1 April 2000.

The work at Bletchley Park was recently made into the film Enigma, starring Kate Winslet, teaching a new generation about the codebreakers wartime exploits.

Bletchley Park trust director Christine Large said the machine had not been returned so far because of the need for security improvements and the opening of a new exhibition.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme she was now sure the original theft had been motivated by a desire to embarrass the trust.

'Mild euphoria'

The machine was returned with its rotors intact but is missing 25 small lightbulbs that go under the keys.

She said: "I'm going to indulge in five minutes of mild euphoria.

"Breaking into those cyphers enabled us to know operation Double Cross where we were running enemy German agents in the country was working.

"The Abwehr machine is particularly important in understanding our history."

She said security had been improved as much as was reasonable, but added: "If one gets some sort of clown who really wants to have a go, nothing can protect against that."

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