UPDATED 13 May: ABC News reports NSW Police allege Scott White, who was arrested yesterday for the murder of Scott Johnson, met the Johnson at a bar in Manly before walking together to a nearby beat for sex.
It was at the beat that White panicked after seeing Johnson take off his clothes, police allege. They say White punched Johnson causing him to lose his balance and fall to his death.
NSW Police took 49-year-old White into custody yesterday and searched his Lane Cove home in connection with the murder, which happened in 1988.
Initially, police thought Johnson had committed suicide, but his brother, Steve, insisted it was a gay hate crime.
DNA understands White did not request bail and did not wish to speak or appear on screen at Parramatta Court today. His lawyer requested the matter be adjourned for eight weeks and will next appear at Central Local Court on 14 July.
Natalie Walster, a neighbour, told ABC News White had confided in her a few months ago about the investigation.
“He just said, ‘I’ve got two detectives on my case about a murder that happened in the ’80s. But I didn’t do it. Don’t have it in me’,” Ms Walster recalled.
In a video message, Steve Johnson spoke of the arrest, “This is a very emotional day, it’s emotional for me and my family.
“For my three kids who never got to know their uncle and admire him not just because of his brilliance but because he courageously lived his life the way he wanted to,” Steve Johnson said.
Scott Johnson’s death has been subject of three coronial inquests with the first finding it was suicide, the second inconclusive, and the third by NSW Coroner Michael Barnes finding it was a gay hate crime.
In his findings, Barnes highlighted the many reports of gangs committing gay hate assaults in the area where Johnson was found, a known beat.
“I am of the view it is very unlikely Scott took his own life,” Barnes said.
“I am persuaded to the requisite standard that Scott died as a result of a gay hate attack,” Barnes added.
In 2018, the NSW Government announced a $1 million reward for information that led to the arrest and conviction of Johnson’s killer or killers. This reward was doubled by Steve Johnson in March.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller praised the Johnson family for their determination, which he said “inspired” his officers.
“Making that phone call this morning is a career highlight — Steve has fought so hard for so many years, and it has been an honour be part of his fight for justice,” Commissioner Fuller said.
Dozens of gay men lost their lives in circumstances similar to Johnson during the 1980s and ’90s. This loss of life was acknowledged by Steven Johnson in making his statement today.
“I hope the friends and families of the other dozens of gay men who lost their lives find solace in what’s happened today, and I hope it opens the door to resolve some of the other mysterious deaths, of men who have not yet received justice,” Steve Johnson said.