John Forge: Award-winning philosophy professor is found dead at Cataract Gorge, Launceston, after a knock on the door from Tasmania Police


A respected multimillionaire philosophy professor who wrote extensively about morality and ethics plunged to his death while being investigated over historic sexual assault allegations.

Oxford University alumnus Dr John Forge, an honorary professor at the University of Sydney, dedicated his life to researching human morality and won various awards, including the 2010 Australian Catholic University Eureka Prize for Research in Ethics.

But behind closed doors, the 77-year-old was secretly living under a cloud with a police investigation under way into sexual assault claims and allegations swirling that he was living a double life.

On May 2, Dr Forge was found dead at the base of Cataract Gorge, in Launceston, Tasmania – just hours after a detective knocked on his door to request he attend a police station for questioning. 

Daily Mail Australia understands he was informed by police he was facing allegations he sexually assaulted a vulnerable woman, aged in her 30s, between 2019 and 2022. 

The claims made against Dr Forge related to alleged incidents that took place in NSW and Tasmania – with the esteemed ethics expert having moved from Sydney to Launceston in January 2022.

Philosophy professor John Forge (pictured) died on May 2 while under investigation over historic sexual abuse allegations 

A Tasmania Police spokesperson confirmed a person was found dead at Cataract Gorge on May 2 under circumstances that were not considered suspicious. 

The alleged victim’s mother told Daily Mail Australia the detective working on the case rang her at 3pm on May 2 to say she had just attended Dr Forge’s home, having asked him to go to the police station to make a statement.

But just hours later, the woman said she received a call from police to reveal that officers had found him dead at the bottom of the gorge.   

‘A member of the public found his ID, phone and keys on a pathway and phoned police, who then went and found him,’ she said.

‘It happened within an hour-and-a-half after the knock. 

‘He was living a double life and it was about to be uncovered.’

The alleged victim’s mother said Dr Forge groomed her daughter and then began sexually assaulting her five years ago, when she was 30.

‘He was absolutely obsessed with her. It was creepy,’ she said. 

Police were called to Cataract Gorge (pictured) after a concerned member of the public found his belongings abandoned on a footpath

Police were called to Cataract Gorge (pictured) after a concerned member of the public found his belongings abandoned on a footpath

‘It took a lot of guts to go to police and make her statement. [The alleged victim] has a strong sense of justice.’

While she was relieved her daughter would not have to go through a daunting court case, the news was bittersweet.

‘She said to me, “He is never going to have his day in court. He is never going to have to pay for what he has [allegedly] done.”‘

Dr Forge, who was named an honorary professor at the University of Sydney in the early 2000s, focused his research on the moral responsibilities of scientists, in particular in using and developing weapons.

His impressive list of tertiary accomplishments included stints studying at several prestigious institutions, including Oxford, Cornell and University College London. 

On top of the Eureka Prize, his book, The Responsible Scientist: A Philosophical Inquiry, earned him the 2009 David Harold Tribe Philosophy Award. 

According to his website, Dr Forge defined morality as ‘the way moral persons ought to behave towards others’.

‘To cause harm unnecessarily, gratuitously, is to do moral wrong,’ he wrote. 

Skylar Silverstein, a Sydney-based sex worker, met Dr Forge when he became one of her clients in January last year.

Dr Forge is pictured with Sydney-based sex worker Skylar Silverstein last year

Dr Forge is pictured with Sydney-based sex worker Skylar Silverstein last year 

She said she felt ‘sick to the stomach’ after learning about his alleged actions.

‘He seemed charming, he was well-respected in various circles academically, he was an author, he wrote so many books,’ she said.

‘But underneath, there were many skeletons in his closet that were about to be exposed.

‘It is ironic he wrote a book about the morals of weapons, but yet where was his moral obligation to this girl?’

Dr Forge’s death has gone unannounced in public, except for his Facebook page being been switched to a memorial template.

The University of Sydney was concerned by the allegations against Dr Forge.

‘We are deeply committed to ensuring a safe and respectful environment for everyone in our community,’ a spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia.

‘We have a zero-tolerance policy to any form of intimidating or abusive behaviour, including sexual misconduct.

‘If any of our community experiences or witnesses such behaviour we urge them to get in touch so we can provide appropriate support and follow up.’ 

A report into Dr Forge’s death will be prepared for the Coroner. 

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