LOOMING large in the minds of Americans for generations, they have been described as the most famous unsolved murders in US history. Now, more than 50 years on, has the Zodiac Killer finally be identified?



That's the pseudonym of a serial killer who terrorised swathes of California from the late 1960s to early 1970s, with the name stemming from a raft of taunting cards and letters sent to the San Francisco Bay Area press, including four ciphers, which included astrological symbols and references, and added to his notoriety.


How many people died?

He is known to have killed five people in stabbings and shootings, with the first known murder occurring in December 1968 when a man and a woman were shot in their car in Benicia, California - the man survived. In 1969, a couple having a picnic were stabbed, with the man again surviving. In the same year, a taxi driver was shot dead in San Francisco.


He claimed to have killed more, though?

At one point, Zodiac - the inspiration for 1971's Dirty Harry, starring Clint Eastwood, and 2007's Zodiac, starring Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo and Jake Gyllenhaal - said he had killed 37.


So what’s happening now?

The case took a major turn when a team of unofficial investigators - made up of ex-law enforcement officers, prosecutors and intelligence officers, calling themselves the “Case Breakers" - said they had identified the killer using new physical and forensic evidence and eyewitness testimony, with one member, Tom Colbert, telling the San Francisco Chronicle: "I absolutely feel we solved this case.”


So who do they think it was?

In a press release, the Case Breakers said they believe a man called Gary Francis Poste is responsible for the infamous slayings. Poste was a retired Air Force serviceman and house painter who died in 2018, aged 80. 


Why him?

The team say they reached their conclusion in part based on photos of the suspect showing scars on his forehead that match a police sketch of the Zodiac and by talking to those who knew him. They also said the suspect’s name could be found in anagrams sent by the Zodiac. They also believe he is responsible for the brutal murder of Cheri Jo Bates, 18, who was found stabbed 42 times and nearly decapitated in 1966, in Riverside, more than 400 miles south of San Francisco and two years before the Zodiac's first known killing.


It comes…

…in the wake of a break in the case last year that saw one of the codes cracked. The decrypted message, sent to the Chronicle, was found to read: "I hope you are having lots of fun in trying to catch me.”


What do the police say?

Police and FBI in the US have dismissed what they say is "circumstantial evidence” by the sleuths. In a statement, the FBI’s San Francisco field office said: “The FBI’s investigation into the Zodiac Killer remains open and unsolved.”