Sydney man admits homophobic murder of Americans 32 years ago

An Australian man has pleaded guilty to the murder of an American mathematician who fell off a Sydney cliff in 1988 on a homophobic hate crime, before being dismissed by police as suicide.

SYDNEY — An Australian man has pleaded guilty to murdering an American mathematician who fell off a Sydney cliff in 1988 over a homophobic hate crime that police dismissed as suicide.

Scott White was charged in 2020 with the murder of Los Angeles-born Scott Johnson, 27, whose naked body was found at the base of the North Point cliffs on December 8, 1988.

During a pretrial hearing in Sydney on Monday, White repeatedly shouted in court that he was guilty, which he had previously denied.

A NSW Supreme Court judge accepted the guilty plea on Thursday, rejecting the objections of White’s lawyers. White will be sentenced on May 2.

He could face life in prison.

Police initially concluded that Johnson, a PhD student at the Australian National University who lives in Canberra, committed suicide. Although his purse was found missing from his clothes, which were neatly folded near the top of the cliff.

In 1989, a coroner in a court-like procedure following the extraordinary death ruled that the openly gay man had committed suicide, and a second coroner in 2012 could not explain how he died.

Johnson’s family sought a third inquest, and state coroner Michael Barnes ruled in 2017 that Johnson “fell off a cliff top for actual or threatened violence by an unidentified person who attacked him because they believed he was gay. “.

Barnes found hordes of men roaming across Sydney looking for gay men to carry out attacks, killing some of their victims. There were also robberies.

A new police investigation has offered a AU$1 million ($731,000) reward for information in 2018, while Johnson’s brother, Boston IT entrepreneur Steve Johnson, has offered a corresponding award in 2020 .

“I think he deserves it,” Steve Johnson told reporters outside court after White pleaded guilty.

“It’s a very sad, tragic thing he’s done,” Johnson said.

Two months after the reward was doubled, White was arrested at his Sydney home. Police said at the time that the reward helped them achieve a breakthrough, and an unnamed informant would be eligible for the reward once White was convicted.