Article Updated 13 May 2020 at 2.56 pm
Yesterday a Lane Cove North man was arrested by detectives investigating the murder of Scott Johnson, whose body was located near North Head more than 30 years ago.
The man charged is 49-year-old Scott White. At a press conference today, Detective Cheif Inspector Peter Yeomans said the accused was not surprised when the police arrived to arrest him.
Scott White did not appear in court today. His lawyer told the court that his client would not apply for bail and would not appear on a video link. The case will be back in court in mid-July. The Police consider this matter to be a gay hate crime.
On the morning of Saturday 10 December 1988, the body of Sydney-based American National, Scott Johnson, was found at the base of a cliff at Blue Fish Point, near Manly’s North Head. Scott was aged just 27.
A coronial inquest in 1989 found Scott had committed suicide, with a second inquest in June 2012 returning an open finding.
The matter was referred for a third inquest and, in 2017, the then-NSW Coroner, Michael Barnes, found that Mr Johnson fell from the cliff top as a result of actual or threatened violence by unidentified persons who attacked him because they perceived him to be homosexual.
Following the inquest, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller met with Scott’s brother, Steve Johnson, to discuss the case before selecting a specialist team of detectives to investigate the circumstances surrounding Scott’s death under Strike Force Welsford.
In December 2018, the NSW Government increased the $100,000 reward to $1million before Steve announced a further $1 million reward earlier this year.
Following extensive investigations, Strike Force Welsford detectives arrested a 49-year-old man at Lane Cove about 8.30 am today (Tuesday 12 May 2020), before a search warrant was executed at a nearby home.
He has been taken to Chatswood Police Station and charges are expected to be laid later today.
Police have also commenced a forensic search at North Head this morning, which is expected to take a number of hours to complete.
Commissioner Fuller has personally notified Steve, who lives in the United States, of today’s developments.
“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,” the Commissioner 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, which inspired me and the Strike Force Welsford team – led by Detective Chief Inspector Peter Yeomans, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
At the time the reward for information was offered Steve Johnson said:
“I have been greatly encouraged by the recent progress in the investigation, and truly honoured by the reception Scott’s case has had with the community,
We now live in a more tolerant and open society – particularly here and in the United States – where societies enable their LGBTIQ communities to be their true selves, live safely and unlock their full potential.
I wish Scott had been afforded the same opportunity, and every effort I put into helping find his killer(s) is also to acknowledge that bullying and gay-hate crime will not be tolerated in our community.
So, in addition to the existing $1 million reward, I will provide up to an additional $1 million for the NSW Police Commissioner, at his discretion, to award to any person who comes forward with new information leading to the arrest and conviction of my brother’s killer or killers
This reward will be for new information and will be in addition to the $1 million reward that Commissioner Fuller announced in December 2018.
With a reward of up to $2 million on the table, I am hoping that Scott will finally get justice.”
Detective Cheif Inspector Peter Yeomans said this was a “complex case”
“When we got the job we didn’t have a body, we didn’t have DNA evidence, we didn’t have forensic evidence,” Detective Cheif Inspectors said.
“It couldn’t have been solved without the community coming forward with information.”
Police have advised they are not looking at any other suspects. The police also said the reward led to information that was influential in making the breakthrough in this case.
Steve Johnson’s Message
Below is a message from Scott’s brother.
Our cover photo was supplied by NSW Police.
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