Enigma thief will be found, says Bletchley director

The head of the WW2 code-cracking facility says the 'mastermind' behind the theft will be hunted down

The mastermind behind the theft of a WW2 German Enigma encoding machine will be "tracked to the end", according to the head of the code-cracking centre from which the device was stolen.

Christine Large, director of the Bletchley Park Trust, which runs the Buckinghamshire heritage site from which the machine was stolen in 2000, compared the search for the mastermind behind the burglary with the search for Ronnie Biggs after his part in the Great Train Robbery of 1963.

"I know the officers involved and in a weird way it's like the Ronnie Biggs case where there were people who just tracked the man to the end -- it will be like that with Enigma," said Large. "There are people out there whose appetite to solve this is immense -- it's like a life-long quest."

The work done by code-breakers such as Alan Turing -- credited with building the world's first programmable computer -- at Bletchley, also known as Station X, is thought to have helped shorten the Second World War by up to two years by cracking vital Nazi codes.

Despite the conviction in 2001 of Dennis Yates, from Sandiacre near Derby, for handling stolen goods, the search goes on for the "mastermind" on whose behalf the antiques dealer acted. "The middleman took the rap for someone else's ego trip," said Large. "The police haven't closed the file on the investigation and are still looking for the people or person who was pulling Dennis Yates' strings." Yates was released from Spring Hill Prison in Buckinghamshire in January 2002, less than three months into a 10-month sentence imposed at Aylesbury Crown Court.

Publicising the launch of her book about the case, Hijacking Enigma, Large said she is certain that the theft was an inside job.

"It's a dead cert that there was information from here," Large told ZDNet UK. There were "too many strange circumstances" surrounding the disappearance of the machine, such as the uncertainty of when it disappeared and how it was stolen, she added. "The case from which it disappeared wasn't the usual case in which it was displayed," she said, adding that that case could have only been opened quickly by someone who knew how it worked.

The machine also disappeared a week before the site was due to have new security implemented.

Stolen on April Fool's Day in 2000, the machine -- known as an Abwehr -- is among only two such devices in the world and is valued at around £100,000. It uses four rotors to generate codes, compared to the three used by most Enigma machines. The Abwehr -- minus three of the rotors -- was eventually recovered after being posted to Newsnight anchorman Jeremy Paxman. Yates arranged the recovery of the rotors while in custody.