Call for judge to head new investigation into unsolved gay hate murders


nsw gay hate crime cold case ross warren Cyril
Ross Warren, Cyril Olsen and John Russell.

A bipartisan parliamentary committee has called on the New South Wales government to appoint a judge to re-examine dozens of potential historical gay hate murders in the state.

The parliamentary inquiry was established in September 2018 to examine a string of historical gay and transgender hate crimes between 1970 and 2010.

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The committee’s report, not due to be tabled in the NSW parliament until May, makes five recommendations, The Australian reported.

Among the recommendations is the NSW government establish a judicial inquiry, run by a judge, to investigate suspicious deaths or disappearances of gay men.

The judge would have the power to investigate numerous NSW cold cases dating back to the 70s.

The committee found that NSW police had failed to properly investigate cases of gay and transgender hate crimes, The Australian reported.

NSW Liberal MP Shayne Mallard is chair of the committee but said he couldn’t comment on the report’s recommendations.

But he said the NSW Police’s breakthrough in the murder of Scott Johnson last year proved justice was still possible for victims.

“If there had been 23 school teachers or nurses chucked off cliffs and murdered, we’d have a royal commission,” he told The Australian.

“Clearly, there is unfinished business while these perpetrators live in our society.”

The parliamentary inquiry has looked at almost two dozen deaths that are currently considered unsolved murders.

Call for information in unsolved NSW gay hate deaths

NSW Police last year charged a man with the 1988 murder of gay man Scott Johnson in Sydney in a remarkable breakthrough. In January, Scott Phillip White pleaded not guilty to the crime.

However in New South Wales, numerous other similar crimes remain unsolved.

Woollongong newsreader Ross Warren (above left) disappeared from the Marks Park gay beat in the eastern Sydney suburb of Tamarama.

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Warren was last seen driving along Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, on the night of July 22, 1989, after drinking with friends.

A friend found his car keys two days later beneath the cliffs on the Tamarama side of Marks Park. His car was found nearby.

Police concluded Warren accidentally fell into the sea, and never recovered the man’s body.

But in 2005, then-NSW Coroner Jacqueline Milledge blasted the “grossly inadequate and shameful” investigation into his death.

“To characterise it as an ‘investigation’ is to give it a label it does not deserve,” she said at the time, concluding Warren was murdered.

NSW Police now consider Warren’s death a “probable gay-hate crime”. In 2015, they announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.

Later that year, John Russell (above right) was working as a barman in the eastern suburbs. He was last seen alive drinking with friends at a Bondi hotel on November 23, 1989.

The next day, his body was found at the bottom of the cliff top at Marks Park, Tamarama.

‘Either I do something, or I’m going over the cliff’

Another Sydney man, Alan Rosendale was attacked by a group of four men with wooden planks at Surry Hills on May 6, 1989.

Witness Paul Simes believes he saw the attack on Rosendale that night, and recorded the car’s license plate.

“I turned on my headlights and reported the registration number to police,” Simes told the ABC in 2018.

“Months later, I got a call from someone, telling me that the number plates matched those of an unmarked police car.”

Sydney man David McMahon also told the inquiry of an experience of gay hate violence from December 1989.

McMahon recalled he was jogging in Marks Park, a gay beat. He encountered a group of 18-24-year-olds who attacked him.

He later learned the group who attacked him were known as People that Kill or PTK, McMahon explained.

“I remember being hit, I remember being bashed. I remember being told that they were going to put a stick — rape me like that,” he said.

McMahon said he regained consciousness as the men were about to throw him off the cliff.

“I thought to myself, ‘Either I do something now or I am going over,’” he recalled.

“I had my footing and there was loose gravel everywhere.

“And that is how I got away. And then I ran. They followed me for quite some time.”

Later, McMahon said he went to give a statement to police about the incident. The officers locked McMahon in a cell at the station for almost three hours, despite him being the victim.

Pervasive prejudices led to failures of justice

In an interim report in 2019, the committee found a “prevailing acceptance of and indifference” to violence against gay men in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

Those “pervasive prejudices” also existed within NSW Police and led to failures of justice for many victims, the inquiry found.

Speaking about the Johnson case last May, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said victims were let down by police and apologised for “mistakes we’ve made in the past”.

Fuller encouraged people with information on other unsolved cases to come forward.

“One small piece of the puzzle can lead police to solve some of the most terrible crimes in our state’s history,” he said.

Anyone with information on any unsolved NSW crimes should contact Crime Stoppers confidentially on 1800 333 000 or online.

If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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