Man arrested over 1988 Sydney gay hate murder

New South Wales Police have arrested a man over the suspected gay-hate murder of a man in Sydney more than 30 years ago.

The body of American national Scott Johnson, 27, was found at the base of a cliff near North Head in December 1988.

A coronial inquest the following year ruled his death was a suicide.


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A second inquest in 2012 returned an open finding while a third inquest in 2017 found Mr Johnson fell from the cliff as a result of threats or actual violence by unidentified persons in a gay hate crime.

The inquest heard the area was a known gay meeting place and that gangs of gay bashers were known to be active in the area at the time of Mr Johnson’s death.

However there was insufficient evidence to identify any of his attackers.

A new Police Strike Force was established with the New South Wales government offering a $1 million reward.

Mr Johnson’s brother Steve announced a further $1 million reward in March this year.

This morning, detectives arrested a 49-year-old man at a home in Lane Cove.

He was taken to Lane Cove Police Station with charges expected to be laid later today.

Police have also begun a search of North Head.

Image: NSW Police

New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says Mr Johnson’s brother has been informed of the development.

“Making that phone call this morning is a career highlight – Steve has fought so hard for so many years, and it has been an honour be part of his fight for justice,” Commissioner Fuller said.

“While we have a long way to go in the legal process, it must be acknowledged that if it wasn’t for the determination of the Johnson family, which inspired me and the Strike Force Welsford team – led by Detective Chief Inspector Peter Yeomans, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Mr Johnson’s brother Steve thanked Police for their efforts, describing the breakthrough as “remarkable.”

“This is a very emotional day. It’s emotional for me, its emotional for my family, my two sisters and my brother who love Scott dearly, my wife and my three kids who never got to know their uncle but admire him not only because of his brilliance, but because he courageously lived his life as he wanted to.”cos of is brilliance vut becyase he

Mr Johnson says he hopes today’s development can lead to a breakthrough in the mysterious deaths of other gay men around the same time.

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