Deaths of nearly 100 gay men in Sydney identified as hate crimes decades later
The deaths of almost 100 gay men between 1970 and 1990 have been directly linked to hate crime by one of Sydney’s largest LGBT health charities.
Police had previously discovered 88 cases where gay men had died under suspicious circumstances between 1970 and 1990.
However, a new report from ACON, an LGBT health and advocacy charity in New South Wales has concluded that many of these deaths can be linked to both homophobia and inadequate investigations by police at the time.
The report published on Monday follows an investigation prompted by an initial inquest into the death of Scott Johnson, a 27-year-old mathematician who was found dead at the bottom of a 200-foot cliff in 1988.
Johnson’s death was originally listed as a suicide, however, an inquest in 2017 found that Johnson was likely the victim of a homophobic hate crime.
In 2017, authorities began to re-examine 87 other cases, some of which were listed as suicides by police at the time.
The ACON report individually examined the 88 suspected anti-gay killings and found that there were multiple underlying themes in many of the attacks – determining that homophobia was a clear motivating factor in at least 50% of the cases.
As many as 30 deaths of gay men who died in Sydney and the surrounding area remain unsolved.
The report called ‘In Pursuit of Truth and Justice: Documenting Gay and Transgender Prejudice Killings in NSW in the Late 20th Century’ aimed to highlight both the deaths as a whole as well as the issues that have remained in the 40 years since these killings began.
The report found evidence of serial killings by groups of young men at the time, as well as highlighting the influence of the AIDS crisis and suggested a link between the large stigma surrounding HIV in the 1980’s and the attacks.
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill stated that the report was an important step in bringing a community perspective to a dark time in Sydney’s LGBT history.
Parkhill said: “We know that a wave of violence swept through Sydney between the late 1970s and early 1990s, which claimed the lives of some gay men.
“We also know that many more, including transgender women, were brutally assaulted and terrorised and some of these cases remain unsolved.”
“Hate crimes hurt both physically and emotionally and affects individuals as well as the entire community. This independent and community-led report is an important step in the long road to justice and healing.
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“By exploring the past, we hope to deepen our understanding of these events, which will help us improve current responses to LGBT hate crimes, enhance the criminal justice system and further develop violence prevention strategies.”
Parkhill then stated that it was important to note the progress that had been made in the last 40 years.
He added: “It is important to note these events occurred in a time when homophobic and transphobic prejudice and hate permeated our society, thriving in many environments including government agencies, public institutions, courthouses, workplaces, communities, schools and homes.
“The relationship between LGBT communities and NSW Police has moved forward in the last 40 years.”