NSW Police are offering a $1 million reward for information that leads to the conviction of those responsible for the death of American mathematician Scott Johnson, 30 years after he died as a result of a gay hate attack.
On December 10, 1988, the body of the 27-year-old Sydney-based man was found at the base of a cliff at Blue Fish Point, near Manly’s North Head. A coronial inquest in 1989 found Scott had committed suicide, and a second inquest in 2012 returned an open finding.
But at a third inquest last year, the NSW Coroner found that Johnson was a victim of a gay hate crime and fell from the cliff top as a result of actual or threatened violence by two or more people.
The case was referred to specialist investigative team Strike Force Welsford in September, and on Sunday NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Yeomans and Johnson’s brother Steve announced the reward for information would be increased from $100,000 to $1 million.
Commissioner Fuller said the reward may be “that final motivation needed for someone to speak with police.”
“This case captured the attention of people around the world and has certainly stayed in the hearts and minds of the LGBTIQ community, and to keep the investigation progressing, we need people to talk to us,” he said.
“Scott’s death is possibly one of the most challenging investigations I’ve seen – and it’s believed one of the greatest hindrances has been an unwillingness for witnesses to come forward.
“This reward gives us an opportunity to appeal to those who know what happened to Scott but may have been reluctant to talk to detectives.”
Steve Johnson said it was “very likely” more than one person was involved in the gay hate crime that ended my brother’s life.
“Someone knows what happened to Scott, either because they were present or because they heard of what happened from others who were present,” he said.
“It is likely that those who were involved in Scott’s death would have bragged about it given the culture of gay hate amongst groups in Sydney at the time.
“It’s 30 years to the day since Scott’s death. I encourage anyone who has any information to come forward and provide it.
“Do this for Scott, do this for all gay men who were subject to gay hate, and now, do it for yourself.”
New South Wales Police Minister Troy Grant said the government was pleased to be able to offer this reward and he hoped it “finally leads to the answers that Scott’s family have been seeking.”
Commissioner Fuller acknowledged the tenacity of Scott’s family, who have been tireless in their pursuit for answers and justice.
“I don’t think a day would have gone by that Steve didn’t think about Scott and the life he missed out on – and every one of those days Steve has been fighting for justice,” he said.
“The Johnson family have waited 30 years for a resolution; there is no better time than now for the truth to come out.”
The $1 million reward can be paid to anyone who has information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Scott’s death.
In September, a New South Wales parliamentary inquiry was announced to examine gay hate crimes in Sydney over four decades, including the murders of 88 gay and transgender people, 30 of which remain unsolved.
A cross-party committee is looking at crimes between 1970 and 2010 and investigate the NSW Police and criminal justice system response and whether authorities failed to protect LGBTIQ people in NSW and delayed justice to victims and their families.
The inquiry came after the recent release of two reports into the epidemic of anti-gay violence of that period, one from LGBTIQ organisation ACON and a separate report from NSW Police’s Strike Force Parrabell.
Anyone with information that may assist Strike Force Welsford detectives is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence.