'Wicked and cruel' mother and son who murdered runner over footpath dispute jailed for life

Carol Dawson, 72, and her son Scott, 41, have been sentenced to life in prison (Pictures: PA)

A mother and son who murdered a runner after pursuing a vendetta against him over his use of a footpath that crossed their land have been handed life jail terms.

Gary Dean's body was found in a ditch in woods near his home after he had been shot in the back with an air rifle and repeatedly beaten with rocks and branches.

The 48-year-old was killed by Scott Dawson, 41, and Carol Dawson, 72, after regularly using land belonging to them for running and other activities, prompting a long-running and bitter feud, prosecutors said.

A jury heard how, as part of the disagreement, Mr Dean's home was daubed with offensive graffiti and he was falsely accused of attempting to lure children into the woods with him.

Gary Dean was found dead in woods near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, after a long-running dispute with the Dawson family (Picture: PA)

After carrying out his murder last September, the Dawsons intended to dispose of his body by using a digger but were prevented from doing so when his remains were discovered by a walker, a court heard.

Following a five-week trial at Sheffield Crown Court, they were convicted on Friday afternoon of murder.

On Monday, Scott Dawson, of Allotts Court, Barnsley, was jailed for life with a minimum of 31 years and Carol Dawson, of Stonewood Grove, Barnsley, were jailed for life with a minimum of 26 years.

The pair showed no reaction as they were told the length of their sentences.

Sentencing the Dawsons, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said: "You both fed off the venom within each other. This toxic mixture led to murder."

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He said that the pair had carried out the killing in "wicked and cruel" fashion.

The judge said that the murder was worsened by the fact that Mr Dean's autism made him a vulnerable target.

During a five-week trial, jurors heard how the vendetta against Mr Dean started in late 2016, when his wife Caroline woke one morning to find her car and house daubed with graffiti saying "stay away Baz", "paedo" and other offensive comments.

Mrs Dean, a headteacher, explained in her evidence how she and her husband were regularly followed and threatened, describing how four youths burst into their home on Silkstone Common, Barnsley, injuring both of them.

She also said that her school once received a letter claiming she should not be allowed to work with children as Mr Dean had attempted to lure youngsters into the woods with him.

She said that a local authority safeguarding inquiry found nothing to support the accusation, adding that her husband was never arrested over anything untoward relating to children.

Gary Dean was murdered for running on the footpath on the Dawsons' land (Picture: PA)

Describing Mr Dean as "quite autistic in his nature", she said he had been obsessive about running and trains.

The trial heard how the dispute over the path involved the Dawsons securing a restraining order against Mr Dean after they complained to police about him, saying he was damaging their property.

A "stay away" sign had been posted on a stile leading to the path, the court heard.

His killers carried out the attack on September 6 last year after seeing him once again stray onto their land.

In a statement that was read out in court on Friday, Mrs Dean said: "The brutal nature of Gary's death haunts us all.

"He had tried to get away, already seriously injured, when the attack continued in an unnecessarily brutal way.

"I have to come to terms with the fact that my husband suffered a painful and violent death and that he died alone in a ditch.

"I cannot begin to imagine the pain and terror he felt as he was beaten to death."

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