$1 Million Reward Offered For 1988 Gay-Hate Murder

A $1 million dollar reward is on offer to anyone with information that can solve the murder of American mathematician Scott Johnson.

Thirty years ago to the day, the 27-year-old’s body was found at the base of the cliffs at North Head and back then his death was considered a suicide.

But his brother, Steve, never believed that he would kill himself “without saying goodbye”.

“Unfortunately, like many other gay men in the 1980s, he got tragically unlucky…assailants killed him because he was gay,” Mr Johnson told reporters.

At the time, investigations into his death were never really taken seriously which angered the Johnson family who had heard from America that gay hate crimes were carried out like a sport in the area where he died.

So the announcement to increase the reward ten-fold, from $100,000 to $1 million has given them hope that this investigation is important and that it can be solved.

“After 30 years, I can finally say ‘Scott the police are keen to find your killers’”, he said.

In a press conference on Sunday, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller remarked at the tragedy that “these people are still out there in our community; living, existing, free” after Scott’s cruel murder.

“There is someone out there who knows the truth, they know how Scott died and there’s a million dollars on the table for you to have the courage to come forward and help us solve this crime,” he said.

Three months ago, Strike Force Welsford was set up, headed by Detective Inspector Peter Yeomans, to re-investigate Johnson’s murder after an unprecedented third inquest last year found he was killed by someone who perceived him to be homosexual.

The police also credit the tenacity of his brother who has fought for answers for the past three decades.

Information about Johnson’s murder may also go a long way in providing new leads into the unsolved murders of 23 other gay men.

A second inquest in 2012 returned an open finding but it was an unprecedented third inquest that found he fell from the cliff top as a result of actual or threatened violence by someone who perceived him to be homosexual.

In June, NSW Police established Strike Force Parrabell to review homophobic killings across Sydney and their subsequent investigations, in decades gone by.

Assistant Commissioner Tony Crandell said of the 86 deaths they looked into, 27 were classed as gay hate crimes and of those, five remain unsolved.

“There is evidence to show that there were elevated instances of violence at gay men and lesbians… during the 70s, 80s and 90s,” he told reporters.

“The unfortunate reality is that there are perpetrators amongst us, there are people that have committed awful crimes in the past that are amongst us in the community.”

Scott Johnson. Image: provided

Working with police on the review was Associate Professor Derek Dalton, who admitted that during the 70s, 80s and 90s “homophobic violence was not taken very seriously”.

“During that period the criminal justice system in general was not as sympathetic or as caring about LGBTIQ victims as perhaps it should have been,” he said.