Scott Johnson’s killer ‘often bragged about bashing gay men’

scott johnson scott white murder steve johnson nsw supreme court
Images: Supplied, 7News

Scott White, the Sydney man convicted of killing gay man Scott Johnson in 1988, has faced Johnson’s grieving family as his ex-wife alleged White “often bragged” about bashing gay men.

The 51-year-old is being sentenced before the Supreme Court for the 1988 murder of American mathematician Scott Johnson at Sydney’s North Head.

After a bungled initial investigation at the time, NSW Police treated Johnson’s death as a suicide for decades.

But after three inquests and public appeals, officers charged Scott Phillip White with murder in 2020.

White shocked his legal team by pleaded guilty to the crime in January. His legal team later argued he was mentally unfit to make the plea, which a judge rejected.

Warning: distressing language

On Monday, Scott White’s ex-wife told a sentencing hearing in the NSW Supreme Court the man often bragged about bashing gay men.

She recalled two conversations she had with her ex-husband about Johnson’s death.

Helen White alleged she read a media report about Johnson’s death and confronted White in 1988.

“I remember asking him if this was one of the gay men that he’d bashed,” she said.

“And he said, ‘Oh that girly looking poofter?’

“He quite often bragged about bashing poofters.”

Before they split in 2008, Helen White said she spoke to him again after reading another media report about Mr Johnson’s death.

“I saw the article and the picture and I just asked him, ‘Did you do this?’” she said.

“He said, ‘The only good poofter is a dead poofter’.

“I said, ‘So you threw him off the cliff? He said, ‘It’s not my fault the dumb c__t ran off the cliff”.

“I said, ‘Well it is if you chased him’.”

Eventually, Helen White wrote a letter to police explaining her ex-husband’s involvement in Johnson’s death, ABC News reported.

Scott Johnson’s family in agonising grief after his death

Several of Scott Johnson’s family members flew over from the US to attend the sentencing hearing.

Among them were brother Steve Johnson, who campaigned for decades for justice, and Scott’s former partner Michael Noone.

They became emotional as they read out victim impact statements describing their decades in “a crater of grief” after Scott’s death.

Michael Noone said he and Scott were excited to start a life together in Australia but their “dreams and plans died with him”.

“No one can imagine what it was like to be shown his lifeless and very badly damaged body,” he said.

“It’s an indelible image that is burned into the brain [that] I will take to my grave.”

Sister Terry Johnson said the “hateful person who killed Scott has been walking free for 33 years” and deserves “life in prison”.

“Thirty-three years that he took away from my baby brother,” she said.

Supreme Court to sentence Scott White on Tuesday

Supreme Court judge Helen Wilson will sentence Scott White for the crime this week, according to ABC News.

Scott White has previously lodged an appeal against the conviction.

But on Monday, Johnson’s sister Rebecca broke down in court and begged White to let this be the “final chapter”.

She said it was a “profound tragedy” that society as a whole in the 1980s “somehow reinforced” to White, who was 18 at the time, that violence against gay men was acceptable.

“I don’t wish Mr White suffering. I do wish he’ll meet justice for the 33 years, four months, 22 days and counting since he took my brother’s life.”

If this has brought up issues for you, support is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

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