$100k reward for info on gay man’s Manly cliff top death
SYDNEY: The NSW Government has offered a $100,000 reward for information that may help solve the mysterious death of visiting American maths genius, Scott Johnson, at the base of cliffs near Manly Beach almost 25 years ago which his family believe was the result of a gay-hate attack.
Johnson’s death was initially ruled as suicide by local police however his family, including his brother, the wealthy internet pioneer, Steve Johnson, have always believed he was the victim of foul play after having been targeted for being gay.
A 2004 inquest led by Coroner Jacqueline Milledge ruled that a number of deaths near cliffs at Bondi Beach were the likely result of violence committed by a number of homophobic gangs of teenagers and young men who had also been attacking gay men in inner-city parks at Alexandria and Randwick.
Following that inquest, Johnson’s family then hired leading Newsweek investigative journalist Daniel Glick to look over the case. Evidence compiled by Glick and Johnson’s family led to the Coroner last year overturning a finding of suicide to instead return an open verdict and refer the case to the State Crime Command’s Unsolved Homicide Team.
“With a lack of witnesses and physical evidence, this is a very challenging case,” Detective Acting Superintendent Chris Olen, Acting Homicide Squad Commander, said this week.
“What we need is fresh information to help us solve this case and bring some closure to the Johnson family.”
Johnson’s naked body was found at the bottom of Manly’s North Head in December 1988, only a few days after he had discovered that he had successfully completed his PhD in mathematics at the Australian National University.
An investigation by Manly Local Area Command judged his death to be not suspicious while a 1989 inquest determined suicide as the cause of death.
However, Johnson’s family never accepted that finding believing that he was the victim of a cliff-top killer or gay-hate gang marauding known gay beats at night.
At the time, Blue Fish Point lookout near Manly’s North Head was one of five well-known gay beats in Sydney’s north while at least six men, including WIN television newsreader Ross Warren, were believed to have died in similar circumstances at gay beats near cliffs overlooking Bondi in Sydney’s east between 1987-1990.
Johnson’s sister, Rebecca, said her brother was a gentle, intelligent, loving man.
“He came to Australia to live with his partner and study mathematics, and died on the day he should have been celebrating completion of his doctoral work,” she said.
“We lost a brilliant intellect and a beautiful person at much too young an age.”
Police Minister Michael Gallacher encouraged anyone with information, no matter how small, to come forward.
“This family has lived for over two decades not knowing what happened to Mr Johnson. They deserve closure,” Gallacher said.
“Someone might have the key that unlocks this mystery.”
Johnson’s brother, Steve, said the family was gratified police had finally offered a reward and had formed Strike Force Macnamir to review the case and possible links to other crimes.
“We understand that police need to look at all the different scenarios, and support them in that effort. But we believe in our hearts that Scott was murdered in a hate crime because he was gay,” he said.
“We are pleading for people to come forward with any information they have about Scott’s death.”
Anyone with information related to the death of Scott Johnson is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
To contact Daniel Glick and Scott Johnson's family, email