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Tue, 12 May, 2020

Man charged over 1988 cold case murder of Sydney man

Man charged over 1988 cold case murder of Sydney man

Police have charged a man over the 1988 cold case murder of Scott Johnson more than 32 years after the American’s body was found at Sydney’s North Head.

The then 27-year-old’s body was discovered on December 10, 1988 and police initially believed his death was a suicide.

However, his brother Steve has always insisted it was a gay hate crime and was validated when NSW coroner Michael Barnes confirmed this to a packed courtroom on November 30th, 2017.

Detectives arrested 49-year-old Scott White before a search warrant was executed at a nearby home. He was then taken to Chatswood Police Station and charged with murder.

He faces Parramatta Court tomorrow and the arrest has come to a shock to his neighbours, including Natalie Walster.

Walster recalled that Mr White spoke to her about the investigation.

"He just said 'I've got two detectives on my case about a murder that happened in the 80s. But I didn't do it. Don't have it in me'," Ms Walster recalled to the ABC.

"He's always been good to me. I can't say anything bad about him. He's always minded his own business," she said.

"I'm not sure what to think to be honest. He comes across as a bit of a loner," she said.

"He hasn't been bad to me; he's been good to me. He does favours for me; I do favours for him.

"I don't know his past, don't really delve into his past."

Scott Johnson’s brother Steve has described the news of the arrest as “very emotional for me and my family”.

"For my three kids who never got to know their uncle and admire him not just because of his brilliance but because he courageously lived his life the way he wanted to."

His brother’s death has been the subject of three coronial inquests, as the first inquest found that Scott Johnson’s death was due to him taking his own life and the second returned an open finding.

It was the third inquest that Barnes found that Johnson was the victim of a gay hate crime and fell off the cliff as a result of actual or threatened violence.

"I am of the view it is very unlikely Scott took his own life," Mr Barnes said.

"I am persuaded to the requisite standard that Scott died as a result of a gay hate attack."

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has praised the Johnson family for their determination.

"Making that phone call this morning is a career highlight — Steve has fought so hard for so many years, and it has been an honour be part of his fight for justice," Commissioner Fuller said.

Photo credits: ABC