February 27, 2021

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Australian man arrested more than 30 years after homophobic murder

Australian police arrested a man in Sydney over the 1988 hate crime killing of Scott Johnson, a gay US national. Two months ago, Johnson’s family had doubled the police reward in the case to AU$ 2 million.

A man has been arrested over the killing of Scott Johnson, a Sydney-based US national, and will be charged imminently, Australian police said on Tuesday. The arrest was made more than 30 years after Johnson was murdered for being gay.

Johnson’s body was found naked at the bottom of a cliff in the Sydney suburb of Manly in December 1988.

Police initially believed it to be a case of suicide, but a subsequent inquest in 2017 found that Johnson had fallen off the cliff as a “result of actual or threatened violence by unidentified persons” in a hate crime.

Gangs of men roamed around Sydney at the time looking for gay men to attack, police said.

Soon after, a team of detectives was appointed, and the state government announced a reward of AU$1 million (€598,000 $647,000) for information leading to arrest in the case.

In March this year, Johnson’s US-based brother Steve matched the amount, doubling the total reward.

The 49-year-old man was arrested by detectives Tuesday morning. Police have started a forensic search at the site of a nearby home as part of the investigation into the case.

“This is a very emotional day. Emotional for me, emotional for my family who…love Scott dearly,” Steve said in a video statement.

“It’s emotional, I’m sure, for the gay community for whom Scott had come to symbolize the many dozens of other gay men who lost their lives in the 1980s and ’90s in a world full of anti-gay prejudice and hatred,” he said.

According to a police review in 2018, at least 27 men were likely murdered in the late 1980s and early 1990s in Sydney, for their homosexuality.

adi/aw(AFP, dpa)