Sydney man pleads ‘not guilty’ to Scott Johnson murder

A Sydney man arrested over the 1988 murder of Scott Johnson has appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Johnson, who was gay, was found at the base of a Sydney cliff at Sydney’s Manly North Head in 1988. A coronial inquest ruled his death a suicide, but his family fought for decades to have his case re-examined. It was not until a third inquest into his death in 2017 that it was ruled that he most likely died as the result of a gay hate crime.

Prosecutors allege that Sydney man Scott Phillip White met Johnson at a hotel on the 10th December 1988, before walking together to a nearby gay beat. At the beat Johnson removed his clothes before White allegedly attacked him, resulting in Johnson falling from the high cliff.

Police arrested White in May 2020 at his home in Lane Cover on Sydney’s lower north shore, 32 years after he allegedly committed the crime. In court today Scott appeared by video link and plead not guilty to the charges. The case will be heard in Supreme Court from 5th March.

The case had received wide spread media attention after a $1 million reward was offered in 2018. The reward was later doubled to $2 million after Steve Johnson, the victim’s brother added the additional amount.

The campaign for police to revisit the case saw a review of many cases of assault on gay men in Sydney over a long period. NSW police were forced to open investigations into over 70 cases of attacks against gay men in the area in the from the 1970’s through to the 1990’s. Many of those investigations are continuing.

OIP Staff


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