The New South Wales coroner has ordered an unprecedented third inquest into the death of an American gay man who fell from a cliff in Sydney nearly 30 years ago.
Scott Johnson’s naked body was found at gay cruising site North Head in December 1988.
Police ruled his death a suicide but his family belive he was the victim of an anti-gay hate crime.
‘The perpetrators are probably still alive and local,’ the victim’s brother, Steve Johnson, said outside Glebe coroner’s court on Monday (13 April) morning.
‘I think this decision lights a fire under the people who committed this crime and thought they got away with it.’
Johnson was a 27-year-old math prodigy who had recently moved to Australia to finish his PhD and be with his partner.
The family’s lawyer, John Agius SC, said there was ‘not a skerrick of evidence that would support the notion of suicide in relation to this young man,’ and that a private investigation had identified 50 people of interest and five gangs who bashed gay men in the area at the time.
Steve funded his own investigation in 2005 after a coroner found that two homosexual men, and probably a third, had been murdered around the the same cliff tops amid a spate of gay-bashing attacks in the late 1980s.
He has spent more than US$1 million on investigating his brother’s death since 2007.
Experts who worked on that case now suspect the deaths could be among more than 20 unsolved gay-hate murders over two decades, though police put the number at eight.