A judge ruled Thursday that a gay American man who fell off a cliff almost 30 years ago in Australia was the victim of a hate crime.
Twenty-seven year-old Scott Johnson fell to his death on Dec. 8, 1988 from the North Head cliffs in Sydney, Australia, according to The Associated Press. Investigators ruled at the time that his fall was a suicide, but State Coroner Michael Barnes ruled Thursday the death was due to a hate crime.
This was the third coronial ruling on the case.
After Johnson’s naked body was discovered on Dec. 10, 1988, his clothes were found neatly folded at the top of the cliff but his wallet had gone missing. A first coroner ruled in 1989 that Johnson had committed suicide, however, a second investigation in 2012 concluded the motivation for his death was unclear and that it was uncertain whether he had died of his own accord or if he had instead been pushed off the cliff.
“I am persuaded to the requisite standard that Scott died as a result of a gay hate attack,” Barnes said, according to The AP. “There is however insufficient reliable evidence to identify the perpetrators.”
Barnes conducted interviews with ten men suspected of perpetrating hate crimes in Sydney in the 80s, but all of them said they didn’t have anything to do with Johnson’s death.
Barnes’ ruling comes after it became public knowledge that the location where Johnson had died was a known spot where gay men would meet to have sex. That information was not included at the time the first coroner ruled Johnson had committed suicide.
The family asked to reopen the case after a 2005 investigation found that three men had died in cliff falls in the 80s after attacks by youth.
“We know now that Scott was killed and not only that, it was likely a gay hate gang that met him at North Head,” the man’s brother, Steve Johnson, told reporters. “The inquest produced many leads toward possible perpetrators that should still be pursued.”
“Stepping up and solving this crime is a hero opportunity… an opportunity for the police to show they are now on the right side of history,” Johnson said. “I strongly believed Scott’s killers are out there today.”
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