Gay Man's Fatal Fall From Australian Cliff Ruled A Hate Crime 30 Years Later

"Now I know his final moments were filled with terror."

By Jaime Lutz

A gay American whose body was found in 1988 at the bottom of a cliff in Sydney, Australia was the victim of a hate crime, a coroner concluded nearly 30 years later.

Scott Johnson, a mathematician, was 27 when his naked body was found at the bottom of a cliff, his clothes and possessions neatly folded on the cliff’s ledge.There was no note.

Johnson’s death was initially ruled a suicide, but Johnson’s family asked for a second inquest amid reports that Sydney gangs sometimes hunted gay men for sport in the 1980s and 90s, and that police officers at the time often only did the most perfunctory investigations of the deaths of gay men.

In 2012, the second inquest recommended that police investigate the case, and the suicide ruling was overturned.

No suspects have been named in Johnson’s murder, one of many suspicious deaths of gay men being revisited by police. In 2013, New South Wales police began reviewing 88 deaths between 1976 and 2000 for possible reclassification as a hate crime.

No arrests in those 88 deaths have been made since that announcement. But now Johnson’s family is confident they’re closer to the truth.

“It was anguishing losing Scott,” said Steve Johnson, Scott’s brother, to The New York Times. “Now I know his final moments were filled with terror, and that’s just like living it all over again.”

[Image of Steve Johnson: NBC]

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