In 2006 a couple from Erba, Italy, murdered four neighbors. An encrypted letter from this criminal case is still waiting to be solved.

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On an evening in December 2006 Olindo Romano from Erba, Italy, and his wife Rosa Bazzi got annoyed by noise that came from their neighbours’ appartment. As this had happened many times before, the two decided to take action. They rang the bell of their neighbors, entered their appartment and stabbed to death the people they encountered.There were four victims – Raffaella Castagna, her two-year-old son Farouk, her mother, Paola Galli, and another neighbour, Valeria Cherubini. This quadruple murder caused shockwaves throughout Italy.

There were four victims – Raffaella Castagna, her two-year-old son Farouk, her mother, Paola Galli, and another neighbour, Valeria Cherubini. This quadruple murder murders caused shockwaves throughout Italy.


The codes used by the murderer couple

After his arrest, Olindo wrote encrypted messages onto sheets he hid in a bible and a book about pope Benedict XVI. He somehow managed to send these books to his wive, who was imprisoned in another jail. The content of the messages was ominous: “Revenge has a long memory”, a list of names of prosecution witnesses under the heading “Book of the Dead”, love messages for his wife, and similar material (thanks to blog reader Dario for this information he has collected from Italian media reports).

However, prison staff discovered Romano’s hidden messages, and police could decipher them. The content was used against the couple on court. The two were condemned to life in prison.

Today, over a decade after the crime, Orlindo is still pleading innocent. Apart from this, he was reported to have invented a four-player version of chess. He and his wife are permitted to meet for two hours three times a month, in presence of wardens.

I wish I could describe Orlindo Romano’s encrypted messages here, but I have no access to them. Allegedly, the code Orlindo used was a pigpen-like monoalphabetic substitution code (MASC) with nulls. Police had no trouble breaking it. There seem to have been pictures of one of the messages in the media, but a Google search doesn’t reveal any of these.


A love message from one prisoner to another?

In 2013 there were press reports about another encrypted message Orlindo Romano hid in a bible. Here’s a photograph I found online that shows it (thanks to blog reader Werner67 for the hint):


As can be seen, the encrypted messsage is hidden in the Exodus chapter of an Italian bible. Here’s a magnified version of it:


According to blog reader Dario, the code used is probably a substitution cipher where single letters are replaced by syllables, so that the ciphertext is mostly pronounceable. It might be a variation of the so-called “alfabeto farfallino”. Dario’s first bet on the unpronounceable digraph “xs” is that it represents word spacing. He assumes that this message deals with Romano’s boundless love for his wife.

I don’t know if police has deciphered this message. If so, they have never published the solution. Can a reader solve it?

Further reading: A German spy message from World War 2


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Kommentare (10)

  1. #1 David Wilson
    15. August 2017

    The ciphertext letters seem to (mostly) appear in pairs. Do you agree?

  2. #2 Marc
    16. August 2017

    Die erste Zeile scheint bis zum Wort “- Poi” unverschlüsselt zu sein (evtl. pochi giorni 1 rima – poi ?). Danach beginnen die Digramme, hiervon scheint es nur 8 Stück zu geben (ohne Beachtung Groß-/Kleinschreibung) :


    Eventuell ein Buch-Code ? Weiß man, wer die gelben Textmarkierungen in der Bibel gemacht hat ?

  3. #3 Marc
    16. August 2017

    Wenn man Groß-/Kleinschreibung mit beachtet, komme ich auf 14 unterschiedliche Digramme :

    cu Cu
    mi Mi
    ro Ro
    ne NE Ne
    pi Pi

    Transkript :

    (Pochi ... - Poi) cu Mi
    xs fi un ro fi cu ne un xs Pi cu Ro ne cu
    mi xs mi (Bild) NE un cu Ro
    fi Ro un (Bild) fi Mi xs ne
    xs ne cu fi (Bild) un cu mi Ro
    ne Mi un (Bild) ne mi xs Pi
    Ro mi Pi (Bild) un mi Ro cu
    cu ne Ro-(Bild) xs cu ne cu Pi
    Cu mi fi un Ro ne cu xs Pi Ne un Mi fi NE
    ne un xs fi cu ne un mi fi cu Ro fi xs
    Ne Ro fi cu xs fi Ro mi

    Block rechts :
    cu xs fi mi cu
    un Ro ne xs
    mi fi cu -

    Block links :
    un cu xs
    Ro ne fi ne -

  4. #4 KunstundKetschup
    17. August 2017

    Guten Abend,
    ich denke der Code hat was mit dem Bibeltext zu tun. Auffällig finde ich Beispielsweise die 8 und die 1 neben den Blumen. Diese passen wunderbar zur ersten Zeile. Ich deute das “Poi” als Hinweis auf das Buch Exodus. Dann wäre cuMi die Seitenzahl 81.
    Zwischen den Zeilen des Bibeltextes steht NE.Micu. damit könnte das Kapitel 21 Fers 18 gemeint sein. (zumal es genau über dem Fers steht.) :)

  5. #5 KunstundKetschup
    17. August 2017

    Die drei verschiedenen Blütenfarben deuten auf die Primel als Blume hin, welche auch Schlüsselblume genannt wird. Das stützt meine Theorie, dass die 8 und die 1 die seitenzahl darstellen soll.
    Leider kann ich kein Italienisch und bin sehr ungeduldig.

  6. #6 Esme
    17. August 2017

    Pochi giorni prima means a few days ago. Poi means and then

  7. #7 Davidsch
    25. August 2017

    Very interesting.

    Here’s the wiki report, but indeed no details on the “bibbia or cifra”:

    “Il 19 novembre 2008 Olindo rilascia la sua terza dichiarazione spontanea, sostenendo di aver recitato fino a quel momento la parte del mostro, e che in questa recita rientrava la confessione rilasciata ad uno psichiatra e le frasi lasciate appositamente su una Bibbia in suo possesso, contenenti ingiurie ed invettive contro le vittime, dichiarazioni d’amore alla moglie e poesie. Le parti civili chiedono complessivamente otto milioni di euro come risarcimento.”

    On November 19, 2008, Olindo released his third spontaneous statement claiming that he had been playing the monster until then and that this recitation included the confession given to a psychiatrist and the phrases specifically left on a bible in his possession containing Insults and invocations against the victims, statements of love to his wife and poems. Civilian parties are demanding eight million euros as compensation.

    Later, he retracted his statements.

    After reading I found out that the “pizzini” in the bible, is a synonym for “small piece of paper”. There he wrote his horror actions:

    It looks like:

    The image you used is from website (

    and it says:

    LA NUOVA BIBBIA DI OLINDO la nuova bibbia di olindo

    Nel frattempo Olindo Romano ha mandato una nuova Bibbia al suo legale. Un’altra Bibbia ricamata con frasi in un codice incomprensibile e zeppa, come le precedenti, di collage e di dichiarazioni d’amore per Rosa Bazzi. E di dichiarazioni d’innocenza. Cosa fanno nel frattempo i coniugi di Erba? «Si vedono tre volte al mese per due ore – conclude Schembri-. Entrambi all’interno del carcere lavorano. E sperano che la verità venga a galla»

    google transl:

    Meanwhile, Olindo Romano sent a new Bible to his lawyer. Another Bible embroidered with phrases in an incomprehensible and wrapping code, such as the precedents, of collages and of love declarations for Rosa Bazzi. And statements of innocence. What are the spouses of Erba doing in the meantime? “. You see three times a month for two hours,” Schembri concluded. Both inside the prison work. And they hope that truth will come to light ”

    This translation makes no sense to me, can someone improve ?

  8. #8 Davidsch
    26. August 2017

    “You see three times a month for two hour”
    must mean:
    They see each other 3 times a month for two hours (in prison).

    Looking at the pairs, there seems to be a repetition of Ro and cu.
    I can’t find the bible online, but if that would be published we could probably see the other marked colors in the bible; which would make it probable to see the type of the references made to the words in the bible. Perhaps Klaus can ask one of the laywers to reveal some more pages to us. This seems however a very controversial trail case, and probably very difficult to get anything.

    Some additional information: Rosa, his wife, is illiterate.
    A complex cipher would be impossible for her to work with I guess.

  9. #9 Davidsch
    28. August 2017

    Thanks to an Italian speaking person (Marco), some text could be translated:

    On November 19, 2008, Olindo released his third spontaneous statement. He claimed he had been playing the monster until then and that this “faking” included the confession he gave to psychiatrist as well as the sentences he wrote on a bible in his possession. These sentences contain insults and tirades against the victims, as well as poems and statements of love for his wife. Those that took part in the process ask eight million euros as compensation.

    Meanwhile, Olindo Romano has sent a new Bible to his lawyer. Another Bible embroidered with phrases in an incomprehensible code, and as full as the precedent [bibles] of collages and of love declarations for Rosa Bazzi. And [also full] of statements of innocence.

    So it seems there are at least three bibles:
    * the new one that was sent to the lawyer
    * at least two older ones [le precedenti, plural] that I guess were used in the process

    Here I personally stop, because there is more material then just the picture presented. Without that additional information and material it is useless to try to solve anything, because it is simply unclear what is presented here.

    Ohne diese zusätzliche Information und Material ist es nutzlos, etwas zu lösen, denn es ist einfach unklar, was hier vorgestellt wird.

  10. #10 Klaus Schmeh
    29. August 2017

    Thanks for this information!