Australian man arrested more than 30 years after homophobic murder

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"On Tuesday the NSW police commissioner, Mick Fuller, said he had been in contact with Johnson's brother Steve, who lives in the United States, to inform him of the arrest".

Comm Fuller said he had personally notified Steve, who lives in the USA, of today's developments.

Following extensive investigations, Strike Force Welsford detectives arrested a 49-year-old man at Lane Cove about 8.30am today (Tuesday 12 May 2020), before executing a search warrant at a nearby home, where they seized a number of items relevant to the investigation. The arrest was made more than 30 years after Johnson was murdered for being gay.

The police announcement didn't reveal the name of the suspect, but it included video of a handcuffed man being escorted from a brick residence in the company of three investigators wearing plain clothes.

In 2018, police announced an Aus$1 million reward for information leading to an arrest in the case, which was doubled when Johnson's brother, Steve, matched the amount in March.

He had been close to completing his PhD when he was found dead at the bottom of the North Head cliffs in Manly.

Following the inquest, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller met with Scott's brother, Steve Johnson, to discuss the case.

"With a reward of up to $2 million on the table, I am hoping that Scott will finally get justice", Johnson said at the time.

Scott as a teenager
Scott Johnson's body was discovered at Sydney's North Head in December 1988

Johnson propelled his younger brother's case into prominence in Australia by drawing upon his tenacity, will, and love for the sibling with whom he grew up in the Los Angeles area. He is now a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.

In the first coronial inquest his death was ruled to be a suicide.

Johnson thanked Fuller and Detective Chief Inspector Peter Yeomans, who leads the task force assigned to the case.

He also acknowledged the significance of the arrest for the wider community, "for the dozens of other gay men who lost their lives in the 1980s and '90s, in a world full of anti-gay prejudice and hatred". In 2012, the suicide ruling was overturned.

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. "Any new information provided to police relating to the circumstances of Mr. Johnson's death", the statement added, "will be thoroughly investigated".

He reflected on what it means to learn this news during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"He was my best friend and he really needed me to do this".

As the video concluded, Johnson turned right, put his hand to his forehead, and walked away from the camera in silence.

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