Police to Investigate Whether Death Was Suicide or Hate Crime

By Diane Anderson-Minshall

Originally published on Advocate.com June 28 2012 10:51 AM ET

After decades of urging, police in Sydney, Australia, announced they will be reinvestigating the 1988 death of a gay man amid fears he didn't commit suicide but was, according to the The Australian, a victim of "a gay-hate crime wave." The publication reported this week that the local coroner yesterday overturned a 23-year-old verdict of suicide in the case of Scott Johnson (pictured here), and police said, "The deaths of at least two other gay men, one of whom was found to have drowned, could also be potential murders and should be reinvestigated as well."

Johnson, who was 27 at the time of his death, was found at the bottom of a cliff overlooking a beach in northern Sydney. His brother Steve Johnson told The Australian, "For 23 years we've had a question mark hanging over why [Scott] died. The reason I've stuck with this for so long is not just because of my brother's death, but to shine a light on the crimes that don't get reported, and the police don't act."

Both Johnson and the deputy state coroner Carmel Forbes spoke of crimes against gay men in the 1980s and Forbes said this week that there was new evidence of "a culture of violence against the gay community in Sydney in the late 1980s" that police should consider.

The paper reports that 10 gay men may have died during that time, including a local news reporter Ross Warren, who was "thought to have been thrown from cliffs near Bondi by a gang targeting homosexuals."