Australian Police Arrest Suspect in Killing of Scott Johnson, a Gay American

Detectives in Australia have arrested a man in a notorious 1988 killing of a gay mathematician from the United States who was forced off a Sydney cliff in what officials called a hate crime.

The killing of Scott Johnson drew attention to a rash of homophobia-driven crimes in the 1980s and ’90s in which gay men were targeted by gangs of young people, who sometimes forced them off cliffs to their deaths.

The police in New South Wales, who had initially ruled the death a suicide, said that they had arrested a 49-year-old man on Tuesday morning and that he would be charged later in the day. They did not identify the suspect.

Mick Fuller, the police commissioner of New South Wales, said that he had personally notified the victim’s brother, Steve Johnson, who lives in the United States, of the arrest.

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

“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,” the commissioner added, “we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Mr. Johnson’s family began petitioning for a second inquest, which was held in 2012, and which overturned the suicide determination and recommended that the police reinvestigate.

“I haven’t stopped crying for five days,” Steve Johnson said. “Today’s been simply an emotional roller coaster of joy, sadness, relief.”

His brother, he added, would be grateful that the family did not give up on finding out what happened in his last hours. “Now we have an answer, we have a lesson for others who would commit more crimes — that they will be caught,” he said.

Isabella Kwai contributed reporting.


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