Reward doubled to $2 million in gay hate murder

scott johnson sydney gay hate murder steve johnson
Steve and Scott Johnson. Photo: Steve Johnson

The brother of gay man Scott Johnson, who died in Sydney 32 years ago, have matched a police reward for information in his alleged murder, with the total doubling to $2 million.

Scott Johnson’s body was found at the base of a cliff at Blue Fish Point, near Manly’s North Head on December 10 1988. Scott was just 27 when he died.

A coronial inquest in 1989 found the Sydney-based American National had committed suicide. A second inquest then returning an open finding in 2012.

However a third inquest in 2017 found that Mr Johnson fell from the cliff top “as a result of actual or threatened violence” because of his homosexuality.

After the 2017 inquest, an investigative team has conducted inquiries into the circumstances of Scott’s death under Strike Force Welsford.

To assist with inquiries, the NSW Government increased the $100,000 reward to $1 million in December 2018.

On Monday Scott’s brother Steve Johnson joined with NSW Police to renew their appeal for information with his personal contribution of up to $1 million.

Reward for new information in Scott Johnson gay hate case

The reward is for “new information leading to the arrest and conviction of my brother’s killer or killers.”

“I have been greatly encouraged by the recent progress in the investigation. [I’m] truly honoured by the reception Scott’s case has had with the community,” Johnson said.

“We now live in a more tolerant and open society – particularly here and in the United States.

“Societies enable their LGBTIQ communities to be their true selves, live safely and unlock their full potential.

“I wish Scott received the same opportunity. Every effort I put into helping find his killers is also to acknowledge bullying and gay-hate crime [isn’t] tolerated in our community.

“With a reward of up to $2 million on the table, I am hoping that Scott will finally get justice.

“Please, do it for Scott, do it for all gay men who were subject to hate crime. And now, do it for yourself.”

NSW Police ‘breaking through wall of silence’ in Scott Johnson murder

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller acknowledged Mr Johnson’s “tenacity and commitment, as well as his selflessness.”

“It has been 31 long years in Scott’s family’s pursuit of answers. The dedication to their brother is as inspiring as it is heartbreaking,” he said.

“Steve has never wavered in his fight for justice; dedicating his time and efforts to Scott’s honour.

“Today, he stands before you to offer his own money in hope that detectives get the elusive pieces to this puzzle.

“Our job as police officers is to solve crime. With cases like this, it’s frustrating knowing that a family’s pain and suffering could be eased by someone coming forward.

“It’s no secret police offer rewards in hope they can motivate those people. While the last increase proved somewhat beneficial for investigators, we’ve still got more work to do.

“There’s now up now up to 2 million reasons to talk to us.”

Strike Force Welsford’s Detective Chief Inspector Peter Yeomans thanked Steve Johnson for his continued support.

“One of our greatest challenges has been facing a wall of silence, but we are starting to break through,” he said.

“At this time, we are currently following some very specific lines of inquiry. We believe given the culture of gay hate at that time, the events surrounding Scott’s death would have likely been bragged about.

“There are two potential groups with information: those involved and those they told.

“Now is the time for them – or anyone who has information – to come forward.”

Anyone with information that may assist Strike Force Welsford detectives is urged to confidentially contact Crime Stoppers 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 over decades.

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

“The gay hate crimes need to be fully exposed for the sake of the victims, their 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 2020 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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