Man charged in 1988 Sydney gay hate murder
A man has been charged with murdering 27-year-old Sydney-based American mathematician Scott Johnson more than three decades ago in what police believe was a gay hate crime.
A 49-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday at a Lane Cove property in Sydney's northern suburbs and was taken to Chatswood Police Station for questioning.
He was later charged with murder.
The man has been refused bail to appear at Parramatta Local Court on Wednesday.
Three coronial inquests have been held into Mr Johnson's death after he was found at the base of a cliff near Manly's North Head on December 10, 1988.
In the first coronial inquest, his death was ruled a suicide. The second inquest in June 2012 returned an open finding.
However, the third inquest in 2017 found Mr Johnson fell from the clifftop as the result of violence by an unidentified attacker who perceived him to be gay.
A $1 million reward for information leading to an arrest in the case was offered in 2018 and Mr Johnson's family in March pledged to match that.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller on Tuesday said in a statement he had been in contact with Mr Johnson's brother Steve in the US to inform him 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 honour be part of his fight for justice," Mr Fuller said.
Steve Johnson in a statement said it was an emotional day for his family and said his brother had symbolised those who lost their lives to homophobia-inspired violence.
He thanked NSW Police for their work over the years.
"It's emotional for me, emotional for my family, my two sisters and brother who loved Scott dearly, my wife and three kids who never got to know their uncle," he said.
"(They didn't have the chance to) admire him because of his brilliance but also because he courageously lived his life as he wanted to.
"I hope the friends and families of the other dozens of gay men who lost their lives find solace in what's happened today and hope it opens the door to resolve some of the other mysterious deaths of men who have not yet received justice."
A 2018 police review of 88 suspicious deaths between 1976 and 2000 revealed 27 men were likely murdered for their homosexuality, with cases peaking in the late 1980s and early 90s.
ACON, the state's leading sexuality and gender-diverse health organisation, said it has been a long and difficult process for Mr Johnson's family, friends and the LGBTQ community.
"For just over three decades, the death of Scott Johnson has created great pain, anguish and anxiety for Scott's family," chief executive Nicolas Parkhill said in a statement.
"While this is a significant development in this particular case, it highlights the need for ongoing investigation, truth-telling and the delivery of justice for so many other gay men and trans people, who were murdered or bashed in similar cases in NSW."