Pensioner and her son found guilty of ‘brutal’ murder of man after footpath feud

Dispute: Gary Dean, 48, was found dead in woods near Barnsley after being shot with an air rifle (PA)

A pensioner and her son have been found guilty of murdering a man in a 'brutal attack' because he was using a footpath on their land.

Gary Dean, 48, was found dead in woodland near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, after a long running dispute with the Dawson family about a piece of their land he would regularly use to go running and other activities.

Mr Dean’s wife, Caroline Dean, told a jury how she and her husband were terrorised in the run up to his murder, with their house daubed with offensive graffiti.

Mrs Dean said they were regularly followed and threatened and described how four youths burst into their home, injuring both of them.

On Friday, a jury at Sheffield Crown Court found Scott Dawson, 41, and his mother Carol Dawson, 71, guilty of the murder.

During a five-week long trial, prosecutors said Mr Dean was found dead in a ditch in September last year.

He had been shot in the back with an air rifle and beaten with the weapon and branches in a 'brutal attack' which was planned, they said.

The mother and son ambushed Mr Dean as he took his early morning exercise, shooting him in the back with an air rifle before bludgeoning him to death with a rock and tree branches.

A jury at Sheffield Crown Court found Scott Dawson, 41, right, and his mother Carol Dawson, 71, guilty of murder (PA_

His body was found by a passer-by in a ditch on September 6th last year, when his mobile phone's ringtone sounded - a call made by his worried wife Caroline.

The court heard that the Dawsons intended to return and dispose of the body with a digger.

Judge Jeremy Richardson QC, said he will sentence on Monday, but told the Dawsons it will be life, but he will need to decide the minimum term.

The jury heard how the Dawsons complained to police about Mr Dean, saying he was damaging their property, and secured a restraining order against him.

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

Giving evidence, Mrs Dean, who is the headteacher at Hunningley Primary School, told the court that her husband was 'quite autistic in his nature' and was obsessive about running and trains.

She explained how he often used an area called Bagger Wood and even built scarecrows among the trees.

‘He used to place scarecrows in the Dawsons’ land but never meant any harm by it, but I remember thinking that it was a massive leap going from something so trivial to the revenge attacks.

’Gary was a quirky man, eccentric, but wouldn’t ever want to harm anyone. He was a complex character.’

Mrs Dean said serious problems began at the end of 2016 when she woke one morning to find her car and house daubed with graffiti saying 'stay away Baz', 'paedo' and other offensive comments.

She then recounted a series of other incidents including how a letter was sent to her school, which she opened, claiming that she should not be working with children as her husband was trying to get youngsters to go into the woods with him.

She said a local authority safeguarding inquiry found nothing to back up the letter’s claims and stressed that her husband had never been arrested for anything untoward relating to children.

Mrs Dean said that, in June 2017, four youths smashed their way into their home at night with three attacking her husband, who was sleeping downstairs, and one going upstairs to assault her, leaving her with a broken nose.

'Brutal attack': A pensioner and her son have been found guilty of murdering Gary Dean, pictured, after pursuing a vendetta against him for using a footpath on their land (PA)

She said one of the attackers shouted: 'Where are you, you dirty b*****d?'

Scott Dawson, of Allotts Court, Barnsley, and Carol Dawson, of Stonewood Grove, Barnsley, showed no emotion as the foreman of the jury read out the guilty verdicts with Mrs Dean looking on the from public gallery above.

Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said to the jury: 'Justice has, I’m sure, been done'.

Prosecutor Peter Moulson QC said: 'This killing was planned and Mr Dean was attacked in a field owned by the Dawsons between 6.50am and 7.20am on September 6, 2018.

'We submit that there was a vendetta against Mr Dean and the family took matters into their own hands - they blamed him for causing them problems on their land.

'Mr Dean's wife, Caroline, last saw him when she left for work on the morning of the murder. She noticed a Volkswagen Tiguan, which we say was owned by Carol Dawson, parked in a lay-by on House Carr Lane, and was effectively acting as a lookout to confirm her departure.

'Mr Dean habitually took a route which included a field owned by the Dawsons while enjoying his hobbies. Shortly after his wife went to work, Mr Dean - who was unemployed and a man of routine - also left the terraced cottage they shared.

An air rifle had been purchased by Scott Dawson previous to the attack and a pellet was lodged in Mr Dean's back between two vertebrae.

Other makeshift weapons were used in the deadly attack including a rock, which was found with blood stains, and branches, the court heard.

The judge said that he will hear victim personal statements in court on Friday afternoon.

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