LONDON – The code has been cracked. London lawyer Dan Tench and The Times newspaper on Friday both claimed to have solved the riddle of a code embedded in a judge's ruling in "The Da Vinci Code" copyright lawsuit.
It reads: "Jackie Fisher who are you Dreadnought."
The message was created by Peter Smith, the High Court judge who presided over the copyright infringement suit brought by authors of the nonfiction book "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" against the publisher of Dan Brown's mega-selling thriller.
Smith's entry in the society bible "Who's Who" lists him as a fan of John "Jackie" Fisher, a 19th-century admiral credited with modernizing the British navy and developing its first modern warship, the Dreadnought.
On April 7, Smith ruled that Brown had not copied from the earlier work for his book, which has sold more than 40 million copies since it was published in 2003.
London's legal world has been in a whirl since it was revealed earlier this week that Smith had encoded a message within the 71-page judgment. A sequence of italicized letters was sprinkled throughout the text, with the first 10 spelling out "Smithy code" — an apparent clue, and a play on the judge's name.
The rest of the letters seemed random: jaeiextostgpsacgreamqwfkadpmqzvz.
Tench, who brought the code to the world's attention last week, said the key lay within the pages of Brown's thriller.
At one point Brown's cryptographer hero Robert Langdon explains the Fibonacci sequence — a mathematical progression that involves adding a number to the two numbers before, so that 1 is followed by 1, then 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc. That sequence, when repeated and substituted with letters from the alphabet, spells out the cryptic message.
"It's extremely curious that he would reference an obscure military figure," Tench said of the message early Friday. "None of us were guessing that."
Tench said he and two other attorneys in the London media law firm Olswang used the sequence and trial and error to decode the message. He said Smith had confirmed it was correct in an e-mail.
The Times newspaper arrived at the same conclusion. On Friday, it quoted Smith, 53, as saying he had inserted the code "for my own pleasure" and had not expected anyone to notice it.
"The answer has nothing to do with the case," he said.