$100,000 reward for info about 1988 death of gay man in Sydney

New South Wales government is providing a reward for information that leads to discovering how American-born mathematician Scott Johnson died in Sydney 24 years ago

$100,000 reward for info about 1988 death of gay man in Sydney
12 February 2013

Police in New South Wales, Australia, are offering a $100,000 (Australian dollars, $102,500 ,€76,500) reward to anyone with information that will solve the mystery around the suspicious death of a gay man in Sydney 24 years ago.

American-born mathematician Scott Johnson was found dead on the rocks at the bottom of North Head, a scenic cliff at the start of Sydney harbor on 10 December 1988.

The first inquest in 1989 ruled suicide. This was never accepted by Johnson’s family. Johnson had no history of depression and was a successful academic on his way to achieving his doctorate from the Australian National University. He was also looking forward to meeting his newborn niece.

A second inquest last June returned an open finding and the case was referred to NSW Police’s unsolved homicide team.

‘At this stage, it is not known whether Scott’s death is a result of suicide, misadventure or murder,’ Detective Acting Superintendent Chris Olen said.

‘With a lack of witnesses and physical evidence, this is a very challenging case. What we need is fresh information to help us solve this case and bring some closure to the Johnson family.’

Johnson’s brother, Steve Johnson, said his family were ‘incredibly gratified’ that the police are committed to investigating his brother’s death and that the NSW government are offering the reward.

‘We understand that police need to look at all the different scenarios, and support them in that effort,’ said Steve Johnson.

‘But we believe in our hearts that Scott was murdered in a hate crime because he was gay. Today we are pleading for people to come forward with any information they have about Scott’s death.’

Johnson’s body was found naked near a cruising area. His clothes were found neatly folded above the cliffs.

A 2004 investigation uncovered a pattern of homophobic violence in the late 80s and early 90s around Sydney’s southern shore but did not look at similar violence north of the harbor.

Steve Johnson has spoken to many gay men who were attacked in the area near where his brother’s body was found, including one who who survived a stabbing in 1986.

The family’s investigation provided enough evidence for a second inquest where NSW Deputy State Coroner Carmel Forbes said:

‘The possibilities that Mr Johnson was the victim of a gay hate crime similar to those that occurred in Bondi [Beach south of Sydney] or that he fell are also available explanations to the circumstances that surrounded his death.’

Rebecca Johnson, Scott’s sister, said in a statement:

‘Our brother was a gentle, intelligent, loving man. He came to Australia to live with his partner and study mathematics, and died on the day he should have been celebrating completion of his doctoral work. We lost  a brilliant intellect and  a beautiful person at much too young an age.’

NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Michael Gallacher, said:

‘This family has lived for over two decades not knowing what happened to Mr Johnson. They deserve closure. Someone might have the key that unlocks this mystery.’

Anyone with any information they believe may shed light on the circumstances around Johnson’s death should call Australian Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. 



No thumbnail available

Freddie Smith hopes audiences will accept new version of popular gay couple on Days of Our Lives

'We’re still telling a great story and shedding light on what’s happening'
Here's how a gay dad explained 'the sex talk' to his young sons

Here's how a gay dad explained 'the sex talk' to his young sons

Explaining love and intimacy to kids is focused around ‘where do babies come from’ – so what do you do as a gay dad?
No thumbnail available
No thumbnail available

US Supreme Court appears divided - and cautious - on gay marriage during oral arguments

Likely deciding vote Anthony Kennedy: 'This definition has been with us for millennia. It's very difficult for the court to say, "Oh well, we know better"'
No thumbnail available

Neighbors help gay Texan couple hit by hate graffiti

Neighbors lent a helping hand to a gay Texan couple who were victims of a hate crime
No thumbnail available

Ellen DeGeneres is producing a lesbian-themed comedy pilot for NBC

One Big Happy will try to make network's schedule and succeed where Sean Saves the World and The New Normal did not
No thumbnail available

Neil Patrick Harris to return to Broadway in 2014 in Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Will portray East German transgender singer in revival of rock musical
No thumbnail available

ABBA considers reunion for 40 years of Waterloo

After decades away, LGBT favorite ABBA could reunite to celebrate their legacy
No thumbnail available

'Convenient' lesbian relationship does not make her part of a couple, says Aussie student winning allowance appeal

Amelia Bradley complained there was not a ‘more nuanced’ description of relationship
No thumbnail available

Expendables 3 director hints Schwarzenegger and Jet Li’s characters are a gay couple

Expendables 3 director Patrick Hughes said ‘I believe they are’ when asked if action legends Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jet Li play a gay couple in his movie