The family of US national Scott Johnson, who was found dead in Sydney in the late 1980s, have praised today’s sentencing of his killer as “justice”.
His older brother Steve Johnson spoke outside court and said the decision to jail his murderer for at least eight years provided “dignity” for his brother.
“I think what we got this week is fairness,” Mr Johnson said.
“My brother brought out the best in me in life and I think he brought out the best of me in death, but this kind spirit brought out the best in Australia.”
“Today does feel like justice for Scott,” his sister Rebecca Johnson said.
“We’ve spent three decades asking questions that had no answers and today I’ve felt like we’ve had answers and we’ve had justice and that’s for our brother.”
Mr Johnson was found dead at the bottom of a cliff at Blue Fish Point, near Manly’s North Head, on December 10, 1998.
The 27-year-old’s death was initially ruled a suicide, even though the area was a well known gay beat and targeted by gangs.
Scott White admitted to the murder after his wife 30 years later revealed he had boasted at the time of bashing gay men.
In sentencing today, the court heard that White was “no longer the angry young man who raised his fists to a man on a cliff”.
The judge found the crime was either driven by hate or self loathing.
White was sentenced to a maximum of 12 years and seven months, with a non-parole period of eight years and three months.
He will be eligible for parole in 2030.
Yesterday, the killer’s ex-wife said he had bragged about bashing gay men during the period Mr Johnson died, and that they had discussed the tragedy the year it happened, and again two decades later.
“I remember asking him if this is one of the gay men he bashed,” she said.
This week the court also heard statements from Mr Johnson’s siblings and his partner at the time of his murder about the impact the tragedy had on their lives.
“I’ll never forget the wailing cry of our mum when I called her to tell her that her youngest child had died. I believe her agony over losing Scott never left her for the rest of her life,” his older brother Mr Johnson said.
Michael Noone had been in a relationship with Scott in the years before he died and faced the unthinkable task of identifying his partner’s body.
“Unless you’ve experienced it, there is no way anyone could understand the sheer horror of receiving a voicemail from police asking you to identify the body of a loved one,” he told the court.
“No one can imagine what it was like to be shown his lifeless and hideously disfigured body,” he said, adding “I’m so glad I was there to say goodbye”.