Scott Johnson: Police make progress in gay-hate death investigation

scott johnson sydney nsw historical gay hate death australia
Photo: Supplied

New South Wales homicide detectives investigating the 1988 suspected gay-hate killing of Scott Johnson have reportedly narrowed in on “a particular individual”.

Scott Johnson’s body was found at the base of a cliff in Sydney on December 10, 1988. The Sydney-based American national was just 27 when he died.

A coronial inquest initially concluded Johnson died by suicide. But another inquest in 2017 found he had likely fallen victim to “actual or threatened” gay-hate violence.

In 2018 the NSW government announced a $1 million reward for information in the case. On Tuesday, the victim’s brother Steve Johnson matched that amount, doubling it to $2 million.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Yeomans has now told the Sydney Morning Herald the investigation had narrowed in on a “particular individual”.

“Since [the reward increase] in December 2018, we’ve received an incredible amount of information from the community,” he said.

“We identified and revisited information relating to people who were known to have a specific bias around the time of Scott Johnson’s death.”

Chief Inspector Yeomans said those involved in Scott Johnson’s death “may have bragged” about the events.

“This has led us to some very specific lines of inquiry, with our current focus on a particular individual,” he said.

Scott Johnson’s brother thanks ‘clearly dedicated’ team of police

Steve Johnson told the Herald the NSW Police’s revelation had left him emotional yet hopeful.

“This is the first time they have ever said that. It was very emotional, to tell you the truth,” he said.

“To go for so long with an intransigent police force, totally uninterested in investigating my brother’s death as a homicide, to a team clearly dedicated to solving it.”

Steve Johnson said he became aware of “progress” in February and asked how he could help.

“That’s when I proposed that I be the one to raise the reward to $2 million,” he said.

“I thought it was important to do that because they seemed on the brink of a breakthrough. I thought I could give it one big push.

“In my phone calls with DCI Yeomans over the last two months they became progressively more hopeful.

“These calls used to end with, ‘Please don’t get your hopes up.’ They’ve stopped telling me that.”

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers confidentially on 1800 333 000 or online.

NSW parliament’s gay hate crime inquiry continues

This month, the NSW parliamentary inquiry into historical gay hate crimes will resume hearings, including in regional areas.

Inquiry chair Shayne Mallard said the committee wants to hear from LGBTIQ people about historical and contemporary crimes.

The inquiry came after the release of two reports into a spate of unsolved murders from a period spanning decades.

Mallard described the homicides as an “a dark chapter” in New South Wales history.

“We need to fully expose the gay hate crimes for the sake of victims, families, friends and the community,” he said.

This year, the committee will travel to the Far North Coast, the Central West, as well as Wollongong and the South Coast.

“We are particularly interested in evidence [regarding] contemporary or policing issues,” Mallard said.

The inquiry will hold the first hearing of the year on March 20 at Parliament House in Sydney.

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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