Scott White Claims He Confessed To 1988 Murder Of Gay American Mathematician Due To Fear Of His Wife

Scott White Claims He Confessed To 1988 Murder Of Gay American Mathematician Due To Fear Of His Wife
Image: Scott White Being Arrested. Image: NSW Police Twitter (left) and Scott Johnson (right).

Five months after he was jailed for the 1988 murder of gay American mathematician Scott Johnson, the NSW Supreme Court was told that 51-year-old Scott White had confessed to the killing due to fear of his wife. 

Trigger Warning: This story discusses the murder of a gay man and homophobic comments, which might be distressing to some readers. For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

American-born Sydney-based Johnson’s body was found on the morning of December 10, 1988 at the base of a cliff at Blue Fish Point, near Manly’s North Head on Sydney’s northern beaches. Initially termed by investigators as a suicide, an inquest in 2017 concluded that Johnson’s death near a gay beat was in fact a gay hate crime. 

The case was solved after three decades with White’s arrest in 2020. In 2019, White’s wife had alerted police about her husband’s possible involvement in Johnson’s killing

White Had Bragged About Bashing Gay men

Scott Johnson

White’s wife had told the court during the trial, that her husband had bragged about “bashing ‘p*****rs’” as a young man in the 1980s. Before his arrest, White told police witnesses that he had “pushed the bloke, he went over the edge”. Later, during a video taped interrogation, White acknowledged that he had told the witnesses that he had “pushed the bloke”. 

White initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, but during a pre-trial hearing in January 2022 he told the NSW Supreme Court he was  “guilty, guilty, guilty”. White’s lawyers attempted to get the guilty plea reversed, but the court rejected it.

In May 2022, the court held White guilty of murder and sentenced him to 12 years imprisonment.  Justice Helen Wilson ruled that there was not enough evidence to declare the murder a gay hate crime “beyond reasonable doubt”. 

White Wants Conviction Set Aside

An appeals court was told by White’s lawyers that he had pleaded guilty in court as he feared his wife was going to “come after” him, reported The Guardian. The court also heard that White felt pressured after seeing Johnson’s brother in court during the hearing. 

The Crown prosecution asserted that White had made a “plea of convenience”, which was rejected by White’s lawyers. They said White’s guilty plea should not have been accepted by the court and urged that the conviction be set aside. 

The prosecution also pointed to notes about White telling his lawyers that his guilty plea was not a split-second decision, reported the ABC.

Johnson’s murder was among the gay hate murders in Sydney between 1970s and 2020. A Special Commission of Inquiry into LGBTQI hate crimes, set up by the NSW government in April 2022, has earlier this month issued a public appeal for information.

If you have any information about the anti-gay and anti-trans hate crimes that occured between 1970 and 2010 in NSW, you can contact:

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