Former police commissioner to face grilling in gay hate crime inquiry

Police Tape

A former senior police officer is set to face a serious grilling in the ongoing inquiry into gay hate killings in New South Wales, Australia.

The wide-spanning inquiry is looking into the unsolved suspected hate crime deaths of a number of LGBTQ+ people between 1970 and 2010, and whether a potential police bias could have affected investigations.

As part of the gay hate crime inquiry, former New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Willing is being called to give further evidence, after a number of witnesses contradicted his earlier statements.

Mr Willing is being questioned in relation to the death of gay American man Scott Johnson in 1988.

Man who murdered gay student Scott Johnson in 1988 sentenced to 12 years in jail
Scott Johnson died in 1988. (Steve Johnson/BBC)

Johnson’s death was initially ruled as a suicide, but following pressure from Johnson’s family to reopen the investigation, and the promise of a $2 million reward, a suspect was arrested in relation to his death in 2020.

Scott Philip White pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was this year sentenced to nine years behind bars.

You may like to watch

The inquiry into Johnson’s death, and others like his, is particularly interested in an interview that former detective chief inspector Pamela Young gave about Johnson’s case in 2015.

In the interview with ABC’s Lateline, Young, who worked under Commissioner Willing at the time, had accused the police minister of “kowtowing” to Johnson’s family in launching a new investigation into his death.

Willing has claimed that he did not authorise Young to give the deeply controversial interview and that he was shocked and angry when he heard her comments.

(Facebook/justice for scott johnson)
Johnson’s family demanded a renewed investigation, which eventually resulted in his killer’s conviction. (Facebook/Justice for Scott Johnson)

However, Young, who left the force in 2015, has since accused her former boss of knowing “exactly what was happening”, and even possibly encouraging her to go ahead with it.

Young claimed, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, that she had told Willing something to the effect of: “If I am asked, I will be tempted to use the word ‘kowtowing’ when describing the [former] police officer.”

She adds that Willing laughed in response, which she interpreted at the time as encouragement.

Elsewhere in her evidence, Young said that Willing and other higher-ups in the force had “backed away from [her]” in public, but told her she had their support in private.

Young’s claims were backed up by her former colleague Penelope Brown, who submitted a diary note into evidence that contradicted Willing’s story.

The note detailed the contents of a loudspeaker phone call between Young and Willing in which she spoke to him about the ABC interview.

It suggests that Young had planned to say that she felt the then-police minister had kowtowed to the Johnson family’s wishes.

Willing is due to appear before the inquiry committee again on Friday (6 October) to respond to these contradictions in his testimony.