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Sydney Man Set To Be Sentenced For Pushing Gay American Off A Cliff 30 Years Ago

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Sydney Man Set To Be Sentenced For Pushing Gay American Off A Cliff 30 Years Ago

A Sydney man has finally admitted to pushing Scott Johnson over the edge of a cliff to his death in 1988, in a savage homophobic attack.

Scott White, aged 51, finally confessed to his real role in the death of the 27-year-old American mathematician, and now awaits sentencing from the Supreme Court.

Johnson was found dead at the bottom of North Head cliff in Sydney more than three decades ago, with police initially ruling his death as a suicide.

 Scott Johnson. Credit: NSW Police
Scott Johnson. Credit: NSW Police
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Johnson's family refuted these claims and slammed police for their initial investigation.

It wasn't until police interviewed White in 2020 that the truth finally came out.

In the clip, White was heard saying: "I pushed a bloke. He went over the edge."

The now-51-year-old Sydney man had previously lied to police, telling officials he had tried to stop Johnson from falling by grabbing hold of him.

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He admitted to his deception in the police recording.

White's admission finally brings an end to questions raised by Johnson's family, after it was initially ruled by a coroner in 1989 that the 27-year-old gay man had taken his own life.

Johnson's sister-in-law stated in court that the initial failures of the police to investigate the death properly were 'indefensible and inhumane', while his sister said the initial ruling of suicide 'made no sense'.

The cliffs in 1988 were Johnson was killed. Credit: Channel Nine
The cliffs in 1988 were Johnson was killed. Credit: Channel Nine
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In 2012, another coroner ruled Johnson's death as inconclusive.

However, in 2017, a coroner resolved that he 'fell from the clifftop as a result of actual or threatened violence by unidentified persons who attacked him because they perceived him to be homosexual'.

In 1988, gangs of men targeting homosexuals were prevalent in Sydney, searching for gay men to either rob, assault or kill.

The North Head cliff was known as a popular place for gay men to meet.

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White's ex-wife Helen told the court that her former husband had 'bragged' about beating gay men up at the clifftop to the pair's children.

When she read about the cliff death in a 1988 newspaper report, she confronted White.

He reportedly replied: "It's not my fault. The dumb c**t ran off the cliff."

The court also heard he then failed to reply when White was asked if he had 'chased him'.

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His ex-wife came forward to authorities in 2019.

According to Prosecutor Brett Hatfield, White first met Johnson in a nearby bar in Manly.

The pair then went to the clifftop where Johnson reportedly stripped.

Johnson's family speaking to media outside the NSW Supreme Court. Credit: Channel Nine
Johnson's family speaking to media outside the NSW Supreme Court. Credit: Channel Nine

Hatfield said that the brutal murder had been motivated by homophobia and Johnson's sexuality.

"This was a grave and serious murder which entailed a high degree of criminality," he said.

In his victim impact statement, Johnson's brother Steve noted: "With a vicious push, Mr. White took Scott and he vanished. This man [Scott Johnson] who once told me he could never hurt someone even in self-defence died in terror."

White's Barrister Belinda Rigg argued her client had only just turned 18 at the time of the 1988 murder and so should therefore receive a lesser sentence.

Rigg also claimed her client suffered from anxiety and panic attacks while in custody as a result of intellectual impairments.

She also added that White was gay himself and suffered while living with a homophobic brother and alcoholic parents in the 1980s.

White's sentencing is set to take place today (May 3).

He will be sentenced by Justice Helen Wilson and faces a potential life sentence in prison.

Featured Image Credit: NSW Police/Alamy.

Topics: Australia, Crime, LGBTQ

Rachel Lang
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