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American offers AUS$1million to find killer of his gay brother in Australia

American offers AUS$1million to find killer of his gay brother in Australia

  • Scott Johnson was killed over 30 years ago and his death remains shrouded in mystery.
Scott Johnson.

The American brother of a gay man who died over 30 years ago in Australia has offered AUS$1million to find his killers.

The new reward is in addition to the New South Wales Police’s reward of another AUS$1million (around US$660,000).

US-born mathematician, Scott Johnson, 27, was living in Sydney at the time of his death in 1988. He’d moved to the city to complete his PhD and be with his partner, Michael Noone.

But he died after falling from a beach cliff top.

Scott’s naked body was found floating in the water at Blue Fish Point, near Manly’s North Head, Sydney on 10 December, 1988. His clothes were found neatly placed at the top of the cliff above.

A botched police investigation at the time ruled he took his own life. But three subsequent coroners’ inquests disagreed with police findings.

And in 2017, there was a breakthrough when a new inquest ruled his death was due to a homophobic attack.

NSW Coroner Michael Barnes ruled it was ‘highly unlikely’ he died by suicide.

Moreover, the coroner said someone murdered Johnson in a hate crime.

‘Scott Johnson died as a result of a gay hate attack. There is however insufficient evidence to identify the perpetrators,’ Barnes said in his ruling.

‘Do it for all gay men who were subject to hate crime’

Since then, efforts have continued to identify who killed Scott.

The local gay community and Johnson’s family have long suggested his death wasn’t an isolated incident. Johnson died at a time when homophobic violence and gay-bashings were commonplace in the area. Gangs were known to target gay men.

Now Scott’s brother Steve hopes the new total AUS$2million reward fund, will finally help investigators identify the killer or killers.

In a statement Steve Johnson said:

‘I have been greatly encouraged by the recent progress in the investigation, and truly honoured by the reception Scott’s case has had with the community.

‘We now live in a more tolerant and open society – particularly here and in the United States – where societies enable their LGBTIQ communities to be their true selves, live safely and unlock their full potential.

‘I wish Scott had been afforded the same opportunity. And every effort I put into helping find his killer(s) is also to acknowledge that bullying and gay-hate crime will not be tolerated in our community.

‘With a reward of up to $2 million on the table, I am hoping that Scott will finally get justice.

‘Please, do it for Scott, do it for all gay men who were subject to hate crime, and now, do it for yourself.’

‘Scott’s death would have likely been bragged about’

Leading investigator Detective Chief Inspector Yeomans said they were starting to make progress:

‘One of our greatest challenges has been facing a wall of silence, but we are starting to break through.

‘At this time, we are currently following some very specific lines of inquiry. Essentially, we believe that given the culture of gay hate at that time, the events surrounding Scott’s death would have likely been bragged about.

‘This means there are two potential groups with information: those who were involved and those they told. Now is the time for them – or anyone who has information – to come forward.’

Anyone with information should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 in Australia or online.