Scott White pleads guilty to the murder of an American mathematician
An Australian man charged with the unsolved murder of an American mathematician who died after diving from a cliff in the Sydney area more than three decades ago was convicted of the murder of the American this week.
Scott White, 50, was found guilty of the 1988 murder of Scott Johnson on Thursday, after making a surprise confession in court, according to reports. White had previously pleaded not guilty to the alleged hate crime murder.
On Monday, White repeatedly said he was guilty before Supreme Court Justice Helen Wilson. He reportedly stood up and said, ‘Guilty, I’m guilty, guilty,’ according to Johnson’s family in court, The New York Times reported.
The startling confession shocked courtroom onlookers, Johnson’s family and White’s defense attorney, who tried to strike his comments from the record.
“No one was prepared for this, including me,” Scott Johnson’s brother, Steve Johnson, told the newspaper by phone after the startling admission.
White’s confession was ultimately accepted by the presiding judge of the Supreme Court.
The sudden development was welcomed by Johnson’s family, who said they were relieved to not have to relive the anguish of his death through a lengthy trial.
“It’s over, finally,” Steve Johnson, his brother, told The New York Times in a phone interview. “This 33-year odyssey has come to an end.”
On December 8, 1988, the body of Scott Johnson was found under a cliff at North Head in the Sydney suburb of Manly. The 27-year-old’s death was initially ruled a suicide by authorities.
However, his family almost immediately cast doubt on the police account – and for years pushed Australian investigators to open a new investigation into the gay man’s death.
At the time of his death, Scott Johnson was a doctoral student at the Australian National University in Canberra. He had previously applied for permanent residency in Australia, where he had moved to be with his partner.
Johnson’s family had previously offered around $647,000 in Australian currency for information leading to the killer’s arrest.
The white was accused in the 2020 murder of Johnson after an informant named him in the case, according to ABC News in Australia.
“The police were sure they had the right person, but you’re never sure until you hear those words from the person themselves, and then suddenly I know who killed my brother,” Scott Johnson also said. Recount Australian radio ABC.
Australian officials are currently reviewing 88 murders of gay men between 1970 and 2000 to conclude whether they may have been anti-gay hate crimes, according to a 2021 Australian government report. Dozens of these cases remain unsolved.
Johnson’s family now hope White’s conviction could help the families of other gay men whose murders have gone unsolved over the years in Australia
“They now have a model to follow,” added Steve Johnson. “They now have some hope that you can solve a 30-year-old case,” he said. “I feel like my brother would be really proud.”
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