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