NSW homicide detectives have arrested a man as part of an investigation into the murder of Scott Johnson, a man who was killed in a suspected gay hate crime three decades ago.
Johnson’s body was found on the morning of Saturday 10 December 1988 at the base of a cliff at Blue Fish Point, near Manly’s North Head on Sydney’s northern beaches.
Johnson, an American-born mathematician who was based in Sydney, was just 27-years-old when he was murdered.
Strike Force Welsford detectives arrested a 49-year-old man at Lane Cove at around 8:30 am today, before a search warrant was executed at a nearby home.
The man was taken to Chatswood Police Station, and charges are expected to be laid later today.
Police have also commenced a forensic search at North Head this morning.
The arrest comes more than 30 years after an initially bungled police investigation which concluded that the 27-year-old US mathematician had died by suicide.
The second inquest in June 2012 returned an open finding, while a 2017 inquest found the 27-year-old was the victim of a gay hate crime.
In March this year Johnson’s brother who lives in the United States, Steve Johnson, matched the $1 million reward offered by NSW Police to bring those responsible to justice – bringing the total reward to $2 million.
NSW Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller, joined Steve Johnson earlier in March at the announcement of his personal contribution as investigators renewed their appeal for information.
Steve Johnson commended the great strides made towards LGBTQI acceptance and acknowledged the importance of correcting past injustices for the betterment of the future.
“I have been greatly encouraged by the recent progress in the investigation, and truly honoured by the reception Scott’s case has had with the community,” he said.
“We now live in a more tolerant and open society – particularly here and in the United States – where societies enable their LGBTIQ communities to be their true selves, live safely and unlock their full potential.
“I wish Scott had been afforded the same opportunity, and every effort I put into helping find his killer(s) is also to acknowledge that bullying and gay-hate crime will not be tolerated in our community.”
Commissioner Fuller said today that he had personally notified Steve, who lives in the United States, of the arrest.
“Making that phone call this morning is a career highlight. Steve has fought so hard for so many years, and it has been an honour be part of his fight for justice,” he said.
CEO of ACON, Nicolas Parkhill iterated the importance of seeking a resolution for families affected by the spate of gay hate crimes in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, and commended NSW Police for their continued efforts into the historical investigation.
“While ACON cannot comment on the details of this arrest, this has been a very long and extraordinarily difficult process for Scott’s family, friends, and many in the LGBTQ community. We are hopeful that we are now moving to a final resolution in understanding the truth behind what happened to Scott in Manly in 1988,” he said.
“There were dozens more cases from this time and many remain unsolved leaving dozens of families and loved ones without answers or resolution.
“We commend the NSW Police Force for continuing to investigate this case after numerous coronial inquests, and thank the NSW Government for committing to a $1 million reward in 2018, for information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of Mr Johnson’s killer or killers.”