Gay man found smashed to death at the bottom of a cliff was killed in homophobic hate crime, says coroner
A gay man who fell to his death was likely killed in a homophobic attack, a coroner has found.
27-year-old American Scott Johnson was found naked and dead at the bottom of a 200-foot cliff in New South Wales, Australia.
The mathematician, who was studying for a doctorate at Australian National University, was ruled to have died by suicide soon after his death in December 1988.
But state coroner Michael Barnes found today that Johnson “fell from the cliff top as a result of actual or threatened violence by unidentified persons who attacked him because they perceived him to be homosexual.”
Scott was in a relationship with Australian music PhD student Michael Noone, who he met at Cambridge University, and was in the process of applying for permanent residency in the country.
In his inquest report, Barnes criticised the police for its initial finding of suicide, calling it “inadequate”.
He outlined how Scott had told an associate professor at the university that “he intended to spend Christmas with the Noone family”.
The same professor said that Scott had spoken about how he was “looking forward to becoming an uncle,” Barnes wrote.
The area was also a hotbed of anti-gay attacks, the coroner said.
There were “youths involved in systematically assaulting gay men” at the time.
Police are currently investigating the possibility that as many as 88 men could have been murdered in the area by attackers targeting people they knew or perceived to be gay.
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