Man charged with 1988 cold case murder to remain behind bars
The lead investigator responsible for the arrest of a man believed to be behind the tragic death of Scott Johnson more than three decades ago has said he hopes the case will bring justice to the victim's family and the gay community of NSW.
The man charged with the 1988 murder of Scott Johnson in Sydney's north will remain behind bars for at least another month.
Scott Phillip White, 49, was arrested at his home in Lane Cove yesterday and charged with murder, 32 years since the alleged gay hate crime.
Today, Mr White appeared in Parramatta Local Court via video link and did not apply for bail.
It comes as the lead investigator responsible for the arrest said he hopes the case will bring justice to the victim's family and the gay community of NSW.
On the morning December 10, 1988, the body of Mr Johnson, a Sydney-based American national, was found at the base of a cliff at Blue Fish Point, near Manly's North Head. Mr Johnson was aged just 27.
Initially treated as a suicide and then as an unexplained death, a third inquest in 2017 found Mr Johnson had been murdered in a gay-hate crime.
Following extensive investigations, detectives arrested a 49-year-old man at Lane Cove about 8.30am yesterday.
The man was taken to Chatswood Police Station and charged with murder. He has been refused bail to appear at Parramatta Local Court today.
Detective Chief Inspector and lead investigator on the case, Peter Yeomans, said police were confident they had arrested Mr Johnson's killer.
"The person we arrested yesterday is the person that murdered Scott Johnson," he said.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said the man's arrest would give hope that other unsolved cases could be resolved.
"Today is day of hope and thanksgiving, we're thankful for the tenacity and experience and the work that had been done, we're hopeful for the victims of the 400 cold cases that have now been given a breath of life after this 30-year-old arrest, we're also thankful that the Johnson family will get some level of closure," Mr Elliott said.
"The crime was offensive in so many ways, because he was a man at the beginning of what could have been a very successful life.
"It was offensive because of the motive of the crime."
Det. Chief Insp. Yeomans expressed his gratitude for those who worked on the case as well as members of the community who continued to aid police efforts.
"It was exceptionally complex ... when we got the job we didn't have a body, we didn't have any DNA evidence, we didn't have forensic evidence," he said.
"We worked for hours and hours to solve this case."
In 2013, Strike Force Parabell was established to investigate 88 unsolved cases across the Sydney and broader NSW area.
Of those 88 cases, 27 were identified as being motivated by gay-hate and among them was the death of Mr Johnson.
The formal investigation in to Mr Johnson's death commenced in 2018 when NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller referred the case to a specialist investigative team.
Strike Force Welsford was then established to investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr Johnson's death, beginning a two-year search for answers.
"To come to a position where we charged somebody is indeed an achievement," NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said.
"We can't give back the 30 years of pain and hurt to the Johnson family but at least we can pursue justice," he said.
Comm. Fuller said the investigation revealed the ways in which crimes against members of the gay community were treated by law enforcement and the media in recent decades.
Comm. Fuller said the arrest was "a long time coming" for the victim's brother, Steve Johnson, his family and the gay community across Australia.
"I apologise to the Johnson family and to the community about the mistakes we've made in the past," he said.
Comm. Fuller said they hope yesterday's arrest would encourage people who may have information on other cold cases to come forward.
"The NSW police force will never give up … there is no such thing as an unsolved crime," Comm. Fuller said.
Police did not release any further details of their allegations against the arrested man.
Investigators revealed someone is eligible for part of the $2 million reward.