Man accused of gay hate murder of ‘maths genius’ who plunged from a cliff in Sydney’s east pleads not guilty to one of the city’s longest-standing murder mysteries which once offered a $2million reward if solved
- The alleged killer of a gay man in Sydney in 1988 has pleaded not guilty in court
- A $2million reward was offered by police and brother of victim Scott Johnson
- Scott White, 49, was arrested in May 2020 over the 32-year-old murder mystery
An accused homophobe has pleaded not guilty to the 1988 murder of American man Scott Johnson whose naked body was found at the bottom of a cliff.
Detectives stormed the Sydney apartment of Scott White, 49, in May 2020 and arrested him for the crime after receiving a tip-off.
An original inquest in 1989 ruled the death was suicide, a second in 2012 could not confirm the cause, and a third inquest, however, ruled Mr Johnson was killed in a gay hate crime.
Detectives stormed the Lane Cove apartment of Scott White, 49, in May 2020 and arrested him for the crime after receiving a tip-off from an informant
Scott Johnson (pictured) was 27-years-old and had just finished his maths PhD when he was found at the bottom of cliffs in Manly
Mr White faced court on Thursday over the 32-year-old cold case, one of the city’s longest-standing murder mysteries, and plead not guilty, paving the way for a trial, reports the ABC.
The third inquest in 2017 found that Mr Johnson fell from the cliff on Sydney’s northern beaches ‘as a result of actual or threatened violence’ by an unidentified attacker who perceived him to be gay.
This was followed by a $1million reward being offered by police for information which led to a conviction.
This was later doubled to $2million with the additional reward offered by Mr Johnson’s brother Steve, an American tech entrepreneur.
Steve said in 2020 the arrest marked ‘a very emotional day’ in a video message shared by police
Detective chief inspector Peter Yeomans, who led the investigation, said that without the evidence from the informant the case ‘couldn’t have been solved’.
Steve Johnson said ‘this is very emotional day’.
He previously said he arrived in Sydney 36 hours after he heard of his brother’s death.
‘It was clear when I got to the police station, the Manly police station, that the police already assumed it was a suicide,’ Steve told ABC’s Australian Story.
‘And I said, ”Impossible”. He’d just finished his PhD that he’d been working on for five years.’
Scott Johnson (left), a Sydney-based American national, was found at the base of a cliff at Blue Fish Point, near Manly’s North Head, on December 10, 1988. His brother Steve (right) spent decades fighting for justice
Over the following years Steve hired an investigative journalist, and lawyers and others joined the cause to find answers, calling themselves ‘Team Scott’.
Among the leads followed by the team were whether Blue Fish Point was a known gay beat, where strangers in the gay community would meet for sex.
Also unanswered was why Mr Johnson’s clothes were neatly folded in a pile at the top of the cliffs.
Steve said the arrest of his brother’s alleged killer was important not only for his family but also for the wider gay community.
‘Scott had come to symbolise the many dozens of other gay men who lost their lives in the 1980s and 90s,’ he said.
The arrest proved ‘times have changed’ and it recognised ‘that all of us deserve equal protection and justice under the law’, Steve added.
Police conduct a search of a headland on May 12 after an arrest was made in connection with Scott’s death