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Cold Case Breakthrough With Man Arrested Over Suspected Gay Hate Murder Of Scott Johnson

An arrest has been made in the 1988 cold-case murder of Scott Johnson, whose body was found at the base of a cliff near Manly after what is suspected to be a gay hate crime.

Charges are considered imminent.

The suspect, now aged 49, was on Tuesday morning arrested at a Lane Cove property and has been taken to Chatswood Police Station for questioning.

Three coronial inquests have been held into the 27-year-old Sydney-based US national's death after he was found at the base of a cliff near Manly's North Head on December 10, 1988.

In the first coronial inquest, his death was ruled to be a suicide. However the third inquest in 2017 found Johnson, a mathematician, fell from the cliff top due to violence by an unidentified attacker who perceived him to be gay.

Scott Johnson. (Image: AAP)

A one million dollar reward for information leading to an arrest in the case was established in 2018, and Johnson's family in March pledged to match that reward.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller on Tuesday said in a statement he'd been in contact with Johnson's US-based brother Steve to inform him of the arrest.

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"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," Fuller said.

Steve Johnson in a statement said it was an emotional day for his family and said his brother had symbolised those who lost their lives due to homophobia-inspired violence.

He thanked NSW Police for their work over the years.

Scott Johnson and his brother Steve mountain climbing in Southern California – 1982. (Image: AAP)

"It's emotional for me, emotional for my family, my two sisters and brother who loved Scott dearly, my wife and three kids who never got to know their uncle," Steve said.

"[They didn't have the chance to] admire him because of his brilliance but also because he courageously lived his life as he wanted to.

"I hope the friends and families of the other dozens of gay men who lost their lives find solace in what's happened today and hope it opens the door to resolve some of the other mysterious deaths of men who have not yet received justice."

A 2018 police review of 88 suspicious deaths between 1976 and 2000 revealed 27 men were likely murdered for their homosexuality, with cases peaking in the late 1980s and early 1990s.