Five weeks ago, I blogged about an encrypted diary kept by a French pedophile priest. Tony Gaffney has now broken the cipher. I hope, my readers can help to decrypt the two diary pages that are publicly available.
On January 21, I published a blog post about an encrypted diary written by a French priest who was accused of pedophile offenses (this diary is now number 00095 on my encrypted book list). The source for this story are a number of articles published in the French press. In addition, there is a website made by the victims of the priest: http://notreparoleaussiliberee.org.
Acccording to the articles mentioned above, there are at least four volumes of the diary. The only scan I could find shows a passage from the 1990s contained in volume 4, which fills over 300 pages.
Apparently, the plaintext of this diary excerpt has never been published. Blog reader Simon wrote:
I did a quick google search but could not find more pages of the diary. Some articles in French written in 2016 say that the diary was found and confiscated during a search, but never decrypted by the police. Later, victims of the priest got the diary and tried to decrypt it before the end of the trial, hoping to find evidence against the priest and proof that the priest has been protected by the church (doesn’t look like they succeeded). In custody, the priest accepted to decode a page of his diary, but there was nothing too personal in it; mostly details about his schedule and people he met.
The persons molested by the priest […] complained they were left alone in decrypting the diary.
Blog reader Steve found some more information about the diary and the encryption method the priest used. His comment is available here.
Tony Gaffney’s solution
Last Friday, I received a mail from Tony Gaffney, who is known to readers of this blog as a world-class codebreaker. Tony wrote: “After many struggles I’ve just solved the priest cipher.” It goes without saying that I was quite thrilled about this news.
Tony provided me the following key (eddited to add: this is a new version Tony provided on March 1):
As can be seen, the priest used a homophonic cipher. Such a system is usually quite difficult to break.
In addition to the key, Tony sent me the following plaintext draft:
I took these two sheets to my friend Christel Nana, who is a native French speaker. With her help, I could retrieve the following partial decryption of the first sheet:
Nicolas a tout de suite été interessé par sa proposition que je suis faite de tondre ses pelouses pour faire d’argent de poche.
Ma relation aux autres s’ameliore considerablement. Je les porte dans mon coeur. Chaque entrevue peut devenir vraiement agreable.
Je conduis mon bus à Orleans pour le preter Andre Martin pour ? jours. Mais avant contrôle technique car il ya ? ans et j’achète deux tubes d’acier pour faire un ?
Debut de sa deuxieme redaction qui mi quel
Here’s a translation attempt:
? in his room, which he had cleaned up before I came. What a nice boy! I am happy in his presence. David is very enjoyable. […]
Nicolas was immediately interested in his suggestion to mow the lawn in order to earn a little pocket money.
My relationship to the others has improved considerably. I carry them in my heart. Every meeting can get really enjoyable.
I drive my bus to Orleans in order to lend it to Andre Martin for ? days. However, I will check the mechanics first, because it is already ? years old. I have bought two tubes to ????
Based on this work, Tony refined the substitution table and developed the following decryption of the second sheet (the translation is given below each line):
Debut de sa deuxieme redaction qui mi que liges a revoir se planet se enchainement desiders.
Opening of his second writing which I whom vassal ? see again his planet linked ???????.
Chicago veint chercher sa table de eclairage pour sa soirer qui vut tres reusrie – dit ?il – je suis heureux?
Chicago ????? searching his table of lighting for his evening which was very successful – said ??? – I am happy
Je sui preter ce materiel.
I will favour this material.
Depart pour pel revois inpres de chateau roux en voiture ou je rejoins sa province en pel ?inage.
Leave for pel see again ?????? the chateau red faith kill or I join his province in Pel ??????.
Finalement je vais toute sa marche avec a troupe ? e emung sur soire mais il civa trop de trajet pour
Finally I am going all the way with his troop ? Meung on this evening know he going too much travel for
mediter – ce rest souvent sa meme erreur et je suis furieux.
meditation – this rest often the same mistake and I am furious.
Qui lraume pasreet vous regardons se projet de fixation de son antenre demi y onde.
Who ?????? ??????? you look at the project of fixing of his aerial half ? water/wave.
Je sis trapre un bon coup de soleil sur sa tete en instalrant ses antenre ? heir avec qui lraume qui est vraiment genial.
I have a ?????? a good stroke of sunburn on my head by installing his aerial ???? with his ?????? who is truly inspiring.
Ses jeunes se metrent a tondre ses pelouses – a des herber – a traiter – qui lraume
His young people are ???? ????? mowing his lawns – been lying on the grass – a treat – which ??????
Your help is needed
Once again, I am deeply impressed by Tony’s codebreaking skills. Deciphering a message encrypted in a homophonic cipher without even knowing the plaintext language is a phantastic achievement. I congratulate Tony on this great success. I am proud that my blog served as a platform for such an outstanding decipherment.
However, the deciphering of the diary page is not yet complete. As you see, some parts of the plaintext still look strange or are missing. I hope that my readers (especially the ones who speak French) can help to fill these gaps. So, if you see potential improvements in the deciphering, please leave a comment.
Further reading: Has a broken code now solved one of the most spectacular crimes of the 20th century?