12 episodes

Bondi Badlands, a podcast from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, investigates a series of murders and mysterious disappearances of gay men that happened on the southern headland at Sydney's Bondi Beach in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

When a high profile TV newsreader and weatherman disappeared on the Bondi cliff tops on a frigid winter's night in July 1989, it received nationwide news coverage but such a shoddy police investigation that links would not be drawn to a series of other murders at Bondi and across Sydney at the time.

More than a decade later, one police investigator would join the dots, revealing a dark mosaic of murder that would keep unfolding to this day. 

Bondi Badlands SMH & The Age

    • True Crime
    • 4.5 • 236 Ratings

Bondi Badlands, a podcast from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, investigates a series of murders and mysterious disappearances of gay men that happened on the southern headland at Sydney's Bondi Beach in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

When a high profile TV newsreader and weatherman disappeared on the Bondi cliff tops on a frigid winter's night in July 1989, it received nationwide news coverage but such a shoddy police investigation that links would not be drawn to a series of other murders at Bondi and across Sydney at the time.

More than a decade later, one police investigator would join the dots, revealing a dark mosaic of murder that would keep unfolding to this day. 

    The Scott Johnson Story

    The Scott Johnson Story

    When the naked, crumpled body of gifted American mathematician Scott Johnson was found by two fishermen at the base of the soaring cliffs at Sydney's North Head in December 1988, police instantly dismissed the death as a suicide – a theory they doggedly held for nearly 30 years. Scott's older brother, Steve Johnson, was certain that his sibling had met with foul play, and hired an award-winning investigative journalist to look into Scott's death. This journalist later revealed a raft of convincing new evidence – which the police resisted.

    In this episode, Steve Johnson describes his long fight for justice, how a veteran detective finally cracked the case, and the phone call Steve had been waiting three decades to receive: telling him that a man was to be arrested for the alleged murder of his brother. It was an arrest that would draw international headlines.
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 41 min
    Fighting for the Truth

    Fighting for the Truth

    Guilty! I’m guilty! Guilty!” declared Scott White -- the alleged killer of American mathematician Scott Johnson -- to the court during a pre-trial hearing in early January 2022. It was an astonishing moment for Scott Johnson's older brother Steve, who was not only face-to-face with White for the first time, but also witnessing this now middle-aged man admitting his guilt for a crime he committed back in 1988.

    After 30 long years of the police doggedly persisting with the theory that Scott Johnson had taken his own life, this was the moment of reckoning for his brother Steve. But how did veteran detective Peter Yeomans finally crack the case? In this episode, we find out about the person whose evidence proved to be a game-changer in Yeomans' two-year investigation.
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 43 min
    The High Cost of Hate

    The High Cost of Hate

    After Peter Rolfe's former partner and close friend, Stephen Dempsey, was murdered by the so-called "crossbow killer", Richard Leonard, in 1994, Rolfe not only had to deal with the loss of a loved one in gruesome circumstances, but a harrowing trial in which Leonard smirked at him and smiled insolently at Dempsey's distraught mother in the courtroom. The experience pushed Rolfe to establish Support After Murder, a group offering emotional and practical assistance for the partners, families and friends of murder victims.

    It also led Rolfe to become a key advocate for the world-first Special Commission of Inquiry into LGBTIQ hate crimes, which lifted the lid on police inaction over a long string of unsolved murders. 

    Read the online story here: https://www.smh.com.au/national/what-his-friend-s-killer-did-in-court-set-peter-on-a-new-life-mission-20240214-p5f4tj.html
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 42 min
    Coming soon: Bondi Badlands season two

    Coming soon: Bondi Badlands season two

    Plenty has happened since the first season of Bondi Badlands. Two men have been sent to prison – one for the manslaughter of gifted mathematician Scott Johnson at the cliffs at Sydney's North Head in December 1988, another for the murder of Raymond Keam in Alison Park in Randwick in January 1987.

    But there’s more -- thanks to a world-first special inquiry that lifted the lid on the police investigations into a string of gay-hate murders between 1970 and 2010. The police tried – and failed – to stop the inquiry from examining the earlier investigations into the death of Scott Johnson, and we soon found out why.
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 2 min
    A Newsreader Vanishes

    A Newsreader Vanishes

    On a freezing night in July 1989, Ross Warren, a newsreader from WIN TV in Wollongong, NSW, vanishes into thin air on the southern headland at Sydney’s Bondi. After a brief investigation, the case lies dormant for years until a detective at Paddington police station, moved by a bundle of letters from Ross Warren’s mother, picks up the case – and discovers a pattern of horrific violence on the headland.

    If you value independent, quality journalism, please subscribe to the SMH or The Age. Thanks for listening and don't forget to check out more of our great podcasts here.
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 35 min
    Murder of a Barman

    Murder of a Barman

    Barman John Russell has just inherited $100,000 and is about to leave Bondi to build a house on his dad's property and travel Australia.  But after farewell drinks with his best mate, Russell goes for a cliffside walk, where the 31-year-old gay man is set upon by his killers and hurled to his death.
    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 28 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
236 Ratings

236 Ratings

captainformula ,

Hopefully something comes of it

As a friend of one of the murdered victims (mentioned during the podcast) I’m glad there is a review underway, in particular with regards to the conduct of (some) law enforcement members. For 30 years I’ve put the loss of a friend out of my mind & accepted his murder as fate. But of course nothing can be further from the truth. Though I doubt the perpetrators will be brought to justice; hopefully they have been held to account for other illegal activities as suggested by the ethical cop interviewed as part of the final episode (& good on him for speaking up)

LincKym ,

Very important!

I am so relieved that someone is telling these important stories! I found the narrators voice lacking in feeling, so enjoyed that it was broken up by interviews.

Ragnar3121 ,

Jumpy timeline

Well spoken but story and timeline jumps all over the place. A lot of characters and guests are introduced and it’s hard to visual it all with the constant back and forth. Definitely not as good as Pong Su or Phoebes Fall.

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