$1m reward for information launched into the gay hate crime victim Scott Johnson

The American PhD student's naked body was found at the bottom of a 60m cliff and was originally ruled a suicide


Words: Steve Brown

A A$1 million reward and a fresh police investigation has been launched into the death of American Scott Johnson, 30 years after he fell off a cliff in Australia which is now deemed a gay-hate crime.

Back in 1988, Scott’s naked body was found by anglers at the base of a 60m cliff near Blue Fish Point and the original cause of death was suicide.

However, last year the then state coroner Michael Barnes concluded that two or more assailants, who were motivated by homophobia, either pushed the PhD student off the cliff or he fell while trying to escape.

Now Scott’s brother Steve Johnson – who has spent more than A$1 million of his own money to fund the investigation since 2005 – joined New South Wales police commissioner Mick Fuller to announce the increase in the reward for information of the killer.

He said: “Someone knows what happened to Scott, either because they were present or because they heard of what happened from others who were present.

“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.”

Although there are more than 240 rewards on offer, this has become the seventh elevated to $1 million.

Commissioner Fuller added: “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.

"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.”