Scott Johnson investigation: $1m reward offered to find gay-hate killers 30 years after death

 smh.com.au  12/8/2018 1:05:00 PM 

Anglers found the naked body of Scott, a 27-year-old mathematics PhD student, at the base of a 60m cliff near Blue Fish Point, just south of Manly, on the morning of December 10, 1988.

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Police now accept the cliff-top area was a gay beat, where men gathered for casual sex, and in November last year the then state coroner Michael Barnes concluded two or more assailants – motivated by hatred of gays – either pushed Scott off the cliff or that he fell while trying to escape.

Steve Johnson 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.”

Of more than 240 rewards on offer in NSW, this becomes only the seventh elevated to $1million. Police Minister Troy Grant said: “I hope it finally leads to the answers that Scott’s family have been seeking.”

Commissioner Fuller 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.”

He said the reward could be “that final motivation needed for someone to speak with police”.

Also alongside Steve Johnson this morning will be Detective Chief Inspector Peter Yeomans, who since September has been leading a specialist investigative team, Strike Force Welsford, which is conducting “fresh inquiries” into the case.

Scott Johnson's death was determined to have been the result of a gay hate crime.

Scott Johnson's death was determined to have been the result of a gay hate crime.

DCI Pamela Young, formerly of the force’s Unsolved Homicide Team, led a two-year re-investigation of the case which, in 2015, advised the coroner there was no evidence to support a finding of homicide.

Coroner Barnes demanded her removal from the case following an ABC television interview in which she claimed former police minister Mike Gallacher “kowtowed” to the Johnson family’s influence and improperly sought priority for Scott’s investigation above hundreds of unsolved homicides.

Mr Gallacher said yesterday: “This announcement vindicates my belief that this case needed a fresh set of eyes.”

Mr Barnes, after hearing testimony from a succession of known gay bashers – all denying they killed Scott – was unable to identify any suspects.

Mr Fuller said: “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.”

Mr Johnson pleaded to anyone who knows what happened: “Do this for Scott, do this for all gay men who were subject to gay hate, and now, do it for yourself.”

Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000

Rick Feneley

Rick Feneley is a news and features writer for The Sydney Morning Herald. His column, Then Again, appears on Saturdays. He was the paper's long-term night editor before returning to writing in late 2008.

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