Man finally admits to killing gay American college student nearly 35 years ago

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01/16/2022

A man has pled guilty — against his lawyers’ wishes — to charges stemming from the death of a gay American man in 1988, which was initially deemed a suicide by authorities but subsequently investigated as a homicide after further inquiries. Scott White surprised the court during pre-trial hearings this week by proclaiming his guilt in the death of Scott Johnson. After knowingly entering a guilty plea before the court, leading a court to accept it and issue a conviction. Johnson was a 27 year-old doctoral student from California who moved to Canberra, Australia to complete his PhD studies at Australian National University, and to be with his partner, Michael Noone. Johnson was found dead at the bottom of a cliff outside of Port Jackson in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, on December 10, 1988. After Johnson’s clothes and belongings were found at the top of the cliff, investigators deemed his death to be a suicide and ceased investigating. It wasn’t until Scott Johnson’s brother, Steve, heard of similar deaths that befell gay men in the area that anyone began calling for further investigation, starting in 2005. “It was inconceivable to me that Scott went somewhere and jumped off a cliff,” Steve said in a 2018 BBC interview. With authorities unwilling to help, Steve hired a private investigator that found evidence that groups of teens would attack gay people near Port Jackson around the time of Scott Johnson’s death. Up to 80 men are believed to have been killed by anti-gay mobs in the Sydney area in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Sydney Morning-Herald reported in 2013 based on previously-unpublicized jailmate confessions, recorded on wiretaps by New South Wales police.

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