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Dennis Yates, 58, had initially denied charges of receiving and handling stolen goods, and of blackmailing
the director of the museum, Christine Large, for £25,000 for the return of the code machine, which was stolen on April 1 last year.

But at Aylesbury Crown Court last Wednesday, September 26, he changed his plea on the lesser of the charges to guilty. The prosecution offered no evidence on the handling charge and a not guilty verdict was entered. The blackmail charge was ‘left on the file’ – meaning the case remains open, but Mr Yates is unlikely to face further action unless fresh evidence comes to light.

John Causer, prosecuting, said: “It would not be in the public interest” to pursue the blackmail charge, which related more to the notion that Yates had “handled” the goods with malicious intent.

Yates, a specialist radio dealer from Sandiacre, Derbyshire, claimed he was acting under duress as a broker to pass the machine on, and denied any part in the attempted blackmail.
Even so, Judge Daniel Rodwell QC warned the defendant that “the offence is so serious as to cross the custody threshold: whether that is the sentence of the court in due course may depend in part on the probation report”. The case was adjourned until October 19 for reports to be compiled.

The case, culminating in timely fashion with the release of a film, Enigma, about the wartime codebreaking exploits at Bletchley Park, has been theatrical from the start. There were reports that the theft had started as an April Fool’s joke but escalated when the value of the machine was realised. The court heard that Yates at one time tried to arrange a graveyard rendezvous to pass on the machine; it was eventually sent anonymously to the office of TV journalist Jeremy Paxman – but sat unnoticed under his desk for several days as he was away on holiday. Police finally arrested Yates on November 11 – Armistice Day – after cornering him in a telephone kiosk in Leicestershire while he was calling a Sunday Times journalist to arrange the return of “specific items” – possibly the three cogged code-setting wheels which were missing when the Enigma case was sent to Mr Paxman.