About The Murders

From the late 1970s through to the early 1990s, more than 80 gay men disappeared or were murdered in NSW, many at coastal parks in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, along with hundreds of assaults serious enough to require hospitalisation as well as thousands of violent incidents targeting gay men.

Many of these deaths and disappearances were misclassified as suicides, misadventure or accidents at the time and almost 30 remain unsolved. None were treated seriously as gay hate crimes and very few perpetrators have ever been charged.

In 2005, a coronial inquest into some of these cases concluded that the deaths were probably hate crimes. NSW Police have subsequently commenced a review of their investigations and have reopened several cases.

This aspect of Sydney’s recent history has been largely erased from public consciousness due in large part to the discrimination experienced by gay men at the time, which resulted in little interest among relevant authorities and the media.

Much has changed since the late 1980’s and it is important for the community at large to be able to both acknowledge the shameful acts of the past and to celebrate and promote diversity.

The NSW Police Force has admitted its officers may have made serious mistakes while re-examining potential gay-hate murders among a list of 30 unsolved deaths. An SBS investigation has uncovered a failure by police to check even basic details for some of the men, resulting in an erroneous assessment being provided to NSW State Coroner Michael Barnes.

In a crucial review of the 30 unsolved cases, police dispensed with the 1986 death of a “William Rudney” in four lines, beginning: “There are no coronial records of a death of a person of this name.”

But that is because the dead man’s name was not Rudney. It was Rooney – and there are indeed coronial records for a William Rooney.

The Real Story is a 90 minute feature presenting first-hand accounts of Sydney’s gay hate killings in the 1980s and 1990s.

This documentary unravels the stories of a society in the grips of homophobia as gangs stalked vulnerable victims on the coastline cliffs, brutal gay bashings were carried out, and lives were ended on the rocks below.

Many of those involved at the time, including police, advisors, victims and families of those murdered speak out on the crimes of the past in the hope that new evidence will rise to the surface in the pursuit of peace for the dead and justice for their loved ones.