Man arrested in connection with homophobic killing of American mathematician in Sydney in 1988

by Editorial Team

Australian police have arrested a man in connection with a decades-old murder of an American mathematician in Sydney.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, 49-year-old Scott Phillip White was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with murder in the homophobic killing of Scott Johnson over 31 years ago.

Johnson, who was openly gay, fell to his death from a cliff near Manly’s North Head near Sydney in December 1988. His body was found at Blue Fish Point, at the foot of a hill considered a popular gay hangout spot.

The 27-year-old victim was in Australia pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics at the Australian National University.

While his death was ruled a suicide by investigators, his family has always maintained he’d been murdered.

In 2005, Johnson’s former partner, Michael Noone, called the victim’s brother, Steve, and told him about a series of anti-gay crimes in the area, where young gay men were being pushed off cliffs.

In 2017, following a campaign led by Steve Johnson, investigators found that he’d most likely died from a “gay-hate attack.”

A reward in the amount of 1 million Australian dollars ($650,000) was offered in 2018. The victim’s brother, a self-made millionaire, doubled that amount, according to The Daily Beast.

“After state coroner Michael Barnes determined in 2017 that Scott had been killed, overturning the original officers’ suicide assessment, Commissioner Fuller pledged to me that he would do everything possible to solve Scott’s homicide,” the victim’s brother said from his U.S. home Tuesday, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The suspect, who was a teenager at the time of the killing, was arrested Tuesday morning. He was denied bail, and is expected in court Wednesday.

Fuller personally called Johnson with the news of the arrest. The developments are a “career highlight,” as he told the Australian newspaper.

“While we have a long way to go in the legal process, it must be acknowledged that if it wasn’t for the determination of the Johnson family … we wouldn’t be where we are today,” he said.

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