Four young men, all gay — WIN TV weather reporter Ross Warren, barmen John Russell, Thai national Kritchikorn Rattanjurathaporn and Frenchman Gilles Mattaini — met their grizzly deaths at the bottom of the cliffs between Bondi and Tamarama beaches and now a gripping new podcast investigates their cases.
The podcast comes from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and sees Callaghan explore the gripping true story of how the scenic clifftops of iconic Bondi became the epicentre of a series of brutal gay hate murders.
The brutal violence occurred on the clifftops near Marks Park which, at the time, was so notorious for targeted gay bashings that the area was nicknamed Bondi Badlands. While Bondi is now the poster-suburb for wealth, health and liberal thinkers, during the 1980s it was at the intersection of a cultural change where the rough working class was being usurped by gentrification and a new, confronting social change.
With Marks Park a renowned gay beat, gangs would regularly lie in wait and randomly attack those on the headland under the cloak of darkness, using the cliffs as murder weapons. Some victims, like Kritchikorn, were discovered by divers in the water in 1990, while others like Ross disappeared forever in July 1989 after his body was swept out to sea.
Tragically, the series of attacks remained unsolved and attracted little police attention — until May 2000 when Detective Sergeant Stephen Page from Paddington Police Station came across some letters from Ross Warren’s mother Kay pleading for her missing son to be formally declared deceased so she could find some closure.
Each episode of Bondi Badlands looks at the murder of the Bondi men, with episode four also examining a 2005 inquest by the Deputy State Coroner which revealed that over the course of four decades, there have been at least 88 murders of gay and transgender people in Sydney, with 30 cases unsolved.
The final episode covers the case of Scott Johnson, whose body was found at the base of cliffs near North Head, Manly, in 1988. A man was arrested by police in May 2020 after a key informant came forward to help break the cold case. A pre-trial hearing is set for early 2021.
“It’s been a slow road to justice for most of the victims’ families,” says Callaghan. “The victims were good, loving men killed only because they were gay.”