A New South Wales police force report concluded in 2019 that the department "ignored gay hate crime between 1976 and 2000".Justice for Scott Johnson

Content note: This article contains discussion of homophobia and related violent crimes.

Thirty-four years on from the death of Cambridge graduate Scott Johnson, a man, Scott White, has confessed to his murder in Australian court this week.

Though the death was originally ruled a suicide, a new investigation resulted in the arrest and charging of White in May 2020. White confessed at a pre-trial hearing in the New South Wales Supreme Court on 10 January.

Johnson studied Mathematics in Cambridge from 1983, where he met and fell in love with a musicologist, Michael Noone.

In 1986, Johnson moved to Canberra, Australia, where Noone lived. He was studying for a PhD in Mathematics at Australian National University, Macquarie University, and the University of Sydney.

Two years later, Johnson was found dead at the bottom of North Head cliffs in Sydney, aged 27.

Police originally ruled the death a suicide, though his brother, Steve Johnson, has since helped push for renewed investigation into the case.

In 2005, the brother heard reports of homophobic gangs which had been active in Sydney in the 1980s and hired a private investigator, despite the disinterest of the local police. He said, in 2020, that he had always been convinced that suicide was “impossible”

Following a coroner report which ruled that he was a “victim of a gay hate attack”, the case was re-opened.


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These events follow decades of pressure on New South Wales police to recognise the force’s failings in dealing with what a lawyer, Sue Thompson, described as an “epidemic” of homophobic murders and assaults.

An estimated 80 deaths took place from the late 1970s to the late 1990s, including 30 unsolved cases. A New South Wales police force report concluded in 2019 that the department “ignored gay hate crime between 1976 and 2000”.

After the conviction Steve Johnson said he was “thinking about his brother”, adding that he was “impressed with the way the justice system worked here”.

Queers in Science, an Australian organisation working to “improve support for LGBTQIA+ in STEMM” has named an award in honour of Scott. The Scott Johnson Memorial Award is given to those who are “making lives better, and workplaces safer and more inclusive, for LGBTQIA+ people in STEMM”.

Scott White is scheduled to be sentenced on 2 May 2022.