Mother and son jailed for murdering autistic jogger who ran across their land

BY JOSEPHINE KUUBAIBONG - Aug 13, 2019 at 1:53pm 100

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A mother and son have been jailed for life for murdering an autistic marathon runner in a "wicked and cruel" fashion following a dispute over him running across their land.

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

His killers Carol Dawson, 72, and Scott Dawson, 41, pursued a bitter vendetta against 48-year-old Mr Dean after he regularly used a footpath that the defendants had purchased, a court heard.

During the five-week trial at Sheffield Crown Court, jurors were told the row began in late 2016, when Mr Dean's wife Caroline woke one morning to find her car and house covered with offensive graffiti saying "paedo" - and "stay away".

Mrs Dean, a headteacher, also claimed she and her husband were often followed and threatened - and said four youths had burst into their home, injuring them both.

She told the court 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.

But a local authority safeguarding inquiry found nothing to support the accusation - and her husband was never arrested over anything untoward relating to children.

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

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

Mr Dean was murdered on 6 September last year after his killers saw him once again stray onto their land.

The court heard his killers intended to get rid of his body using a digger, but were prevented from doing so after a walker discovered his remains.

In a statement read out in court on Friday when the pair were convicted of his murder, Mrs Dean said the "brutal nature" of her husband's death "haunted" her.

She said: "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."

She also described her husband as "quite autistic in his nature" - and that he had been obsessive about running and trains.

Judge Jeremy Richardson QC claimed Mr Dean's autism made him a vulnerable target.

When sentencing the Dawsons, he told them their murder was carried out with "brutal determination" - and that he had little doubt they "both encouraged the other to act".

He also said that Mr Dean had been a warm, kind and loved man, adding: "You both, on the other hand, were filled with venom and a desire for revenge for what you, inaccurately, perceived was police inaction.

"Instead of trying to understand his problems and approach them as others had, you commenced a vendetta."

Speaking outside court, Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Mark Oughton, who led the investigation, claimed the "horrific" attack was "over a small dispute".

He said: "There was some damage that had been done and the Dawsons firmly believed Mr Dean had done that.

"And it turned into a little bit of a tit-for-tat. But unfortunately that went far too far".

Asked whether police did enough to protect Mr Dean, Mr Oughton confirmed that a complaint had been made about some of those previous contacts and an inquiry was ongoing.

Scott Dawson, of Barnsley, was jailed for at least 31 years, while his mother Carol, also of Barnsley, received a minimum term of 26 years.

Neither showed any reaction as they were told the length of their sentences.

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