Police arrest suspect in 30 year old case of murder of a gay man

Scott Johnson
Scott Johnson (Photo: NSW Police)

Police in Australia have arrested a suspect in the murder of 27-year-old Scott Johnson, a gay American mathematician. Johnson died in 1988 while studying in Australia for his doctorate.

The BBC reports that law enforcement formally charged 49-year-old Australian man Scott Price with the crime. Johnson’s body turned up at Sydney’s North Head cliff in the suburb of Manly in 1988. At the time, police ruled his death a suicide, though his family suspected otherwise.

Related: Hunting gay men for sport: Man’s fall from cliff ruled a hate crime 30 years later

In the subsequent years, pleas from the Johnson family and queer community forced police to reexamine the crime. As many as 88 gay men died under similar circumstances in the region around the same period. In 2017, the coroner determined that Johnson had been pushed off a cliff by a gang as part of hate crime. Police apologized for not protecting the gay community at the time, and opened a new investigation into the case, treating it as a murder.

“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,” police commissioner Mick Fuller said.

“This is a very emotional day,” Scott’s brother, Steve Johnson said in a video message statement. “He was my best friend and he really needed me to do this. I hope the family and friends of the other dozens of gay men who lost their lives find solace in what’s happened today.”