Scott White, the man charged with the alleged murder of Scott Johnson in 1988, has pleaded not guilty clearing the way for a trial to proceed, ABC News reports.
White has spent the last eight months behind bars after he was arrested in May 2020 following key information provided by an informant.
Dressed in prison greens, ABC News reports White showed little emotion throughout the hearing, only saying, “Yes I can” when Magistrate Roberts asked him if he could hear the proceedings.
Detective Chief Inspector Yeomans, who is still leading the investigation, sat in the back of the public gallery during the hearing.
Johnson’s death led to three coronial inquests that finally concluded he hadn’t taken his own life as originally alleged. The 27-year-old’s body was found by a fisherman at the bottom of cliffs near Manly in Sydney’s Northern Beaches in December 1988.
Police allege the crime was motivated by the “absolute” hatred of a gay man. At the time, dozens of gay men lost their lives in similar circumstances.
Johnson’s brother Steve always suspected his brother was murdered. The third inquest into Johnson’s death determined it was the result of a gay hate crime.
In December 2018, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller announced a $1 million reward for information that could solve the case.
The reward was doubled to $2 million by Steve Johnson, although it remains unclear whether any of that money has been paid to the informant.
In a video message from San Francisco, Steve Johnson said, “This is a very emotional day for me and my family.”
White, who is being held at Shortland Correctional Centre in the Hunter Valley, will remain behind bars until March 5 when a trial date will be set in the Supreme Court.