SYDNEY, Australia – An astonishing investigative report details Australia’s shameful past when “fag-bashing” gangs ran wild, dozens of gay men were murdered by “cliff-jumping,” and police and coroners often labeled the deaths as “suicides.”
Rick Feneley, a news and features writer at The Sydney Morning Herald, reports that up to 80 gay men were murdered, 30 cases remain unsolved, and that dozens of killers are still walking free.
Many of the murderers were gangs of schoolboys who would prowl places where gay men were known to congregate. Some victims were lured into believing that they were hooking up, only to be suddenly surrounded by a bunch of gay-bashers.
One of the popular spots for gay men was the Bondi clifftops, a remote area with steep cliffs overlooking the ocean. It was here where a local gang known as the Bondi Boys, and their girlfriends, would bash gay men and throw them over the cliffs to their death.
Dozens of gay men would die over a period of time from the late 1980s through 1999. Most often, the coroners would rule “suicide,” the police would close the cases, the media would largely ignore the deaths, and the public went unaware of what was happening in their backyards.
It would take years of diligent police work of Det. Sgt. Steve McCann to begin to unravel the mysterious murders. He was helped by Sue Thompson, a former state ombudsman’s investigator, who joined the police force in 1990 to coordinate its liaison with the LGBT community.
Thompson, the paper reported in Saturday’s edition (today in the U.S.), used police data and found 46 gay-hate murders in the state of New South Wales from 1989 to 1999. Another criminologist found 50 gay-hate murders between a similar period, from 1985 to 1995.
Their startling figures, while noted by the experts, never captured the public's attention. They were quite an understatement, in any case. They accounted only for reported homicides. They did not include cases filed away as suicides, deaths by misadventure or disappearances.
From bitter experience, Thompson now knows that at least some of those, and possibly many, were murders. Today she can count about 80 deaths or disappearances, mainly in Sydney but some in regional NSW, dating from the late 1970s to late 1990s - all potentially fitting this category of gay-hate crime. Of those, 30 remain unsolved.