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Killings of 27 gay men in Sydney were likely homophobic hate crimes, police admit

Authorities failed to protect the LGBT community during a spate of gay killings over three decades.

By Will Stroude

Police in Australia have admitted that the killings of at least 27 gay in Sydney between 1976 and 2000 were likely homophobic hate crimes.

A three-year investigation into 88 historic deaths of gay men in New South Wales (NSW) found hate crime was suspected or confirmed in at least 27 deaths, and that further investigation was needed in another 25 cases.

Hate crimes were ruled out in 34 deaths, the BBC reports.

For three decades between the 1970s and 2000, the parks and coastline surrounding Sydney were the scenes of a huge number of brutal deaths involving gay men, many of whom were found at the foot of cliffs.

Many of the men had their cause of death listed as the result of suicides or accidents, but rumours had swirled for years that homophobic gangs roamed the city’s known gay meeting areas looking for victims to attack.

In 2015, NSW police reopened investigations into as many 88 deaths involving men in Sydney between 1976 and 2000 as part of ‘Operation Parrabell’, to ascertain whether the deceased were in fact the victims of anti-gay hate crimes.

The body of one victim, 27-year-old Scott Johnson (pictured above), was found naked at the bottom of a 60-metre cliff at North Head, Manly, in Sydney, in 1988. 

The naked body of 27-year-old mathematician Scott Johnson was found at the foot of cliffs in 1988. His death was ruled as suicide at the time.

After initially being ruled as a sucide, his death was finally ruled as the result of a gay hate attack in November 2017 after three inquests and a 30-year campaign for justice by his family.

On Wednesday (June 27), NSW police admitted the force had failed in its duty to the LGBT community during the period of the brutal killings.

“[NSW Police] acknowledges without qualification both its and society’s acceptance of gay bashings and shocking violence directed at gay men, and the LGBT community between 1976 and 2000,” it said in a statement.

It added: “There were certainly people murdered because of their sexuality during this time.”

NSW Police said it was “very difficult” to identify homophobic hatred as a motive in historic cases, but that police had effectively given perpetrators a “license” to attack gay people.

The NSW Labor Party has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the killings, while according to AAP, police are now considering whether to issue a formal apology.