SYDNEY, Australia — An Australian man convicted in January of murdering a gay American PhD student more than three decades ago by pushing him off a cliff was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Tuesday.

In 1988, American Scott Johnson, 27, was a graduate math student who had moved to Australia to be with his partner. On December 8 of that year, Mr Johnson met an Australian man, Scott White, in a Sydney pub, and the two went to an open rock wall frequented by gay men. Mr. Johnson’s body was discovered at the bottom of the cliff two days later.

The original inquest into Mr Johnson’s death ruled it suicide.

His brother Steve was skeptical. After being notified in 2005 of an inquest into the deaths of three men from the same time period under similar circumstances, he hired an investigative reporter to investigate his brother’s death.

Former Australian officials have said that at the time, police were often hostile to gay men and did not properly investigate their deaths.

Steve Johnson successfully petitioned a second inquest in 2012, which overturned the suicide decision and advised police to re-examine the case.

A third inquest was conducted in 2017, which found that Mr Johnson was the victim of an anti-gay hate crime and fell off the cliff as a result of actual or threatened violence. After a three-year investigation by the New South Wales Police, Mr. White charged with murder in May 2020.

mr. White initially pleaded innocent, but in January he unexpectedly changed his plea.

Judge Helen Wilson, a New South Wales Supreme Court judge who handed down the sentence, said she took a number of factors into consideration. Among them: the personal circumstances of Mr. White, including the fact that he had subsequently obeyed the law and was cognitively impaired.

mr. White, 51, will have to serve a minimum of eight years and three months in prison before being eligible for parole.

Many of the victim’s relatives were personally present at the sentencing. Steve Johnson, a tech entrepreneur who spent decades paying attention to his brother’s death, said it gave them peace of mind.

“I think now we can all feel like we’ve brought this to a close – my brother’s killer has been behind bars for a long time,” he said.

Between 1970 and 2010, at least 88 members of the gay community were murdered by various local gangs. The police investigation into these deaths continues and last November the New South Wales government announced an investigation into them, details of which will be announced shortly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.