Police reopen suicide case due to gay hate crime suspicions

HIS death was ruled a suicide but more than 20 years after a university student was found at the foot of a Sydney cliff, homicide detectives are investigating if he was the victim of a gay hate crime.

Scott Johnson should have been celebrating the end to the study year when his body was discovered at Manly's North Head on December 10, 1988.

He had moved to Australia with his partner to study mathematics and was described as "gentle, intelligent and loving".

The family of the 27-year-old never believed he killed himself and in 2011 an inquest into his death returned an open finding.

Scott's siblings told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday they believed he had been a victim of homophobic attacks which were rife in the Eastern Suburbs and Northern Beaches in the 70s and 80s and resulted in the deaths of at least five men.

Brother, Steve Johnson said the family "believe in our hearts that Scott was murdered in a hate crime because he was gay".

He said a pattern of violence towards gays during that period had been ignored but modern day police were readier to explore all the options and "bring justice" to victims of hate crimes.

Strike Force Macnamir has been established to investigate Scott's death.

Detective Acting Superintendent Chris Olen said the lack of witnesses and physical evidence made the case "very challenging".

He said attitudes in the NSW Police Force had changed since the 80s and appealed for public help.

Anyone with information can phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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