A pensioner and her son have been found guilty of murdering a man in a “brutal attack” after pursuing a vendetta against him for using a footpath over their land.
Gary Dean, 48, was found dead in woods 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 for other activities.
Mr Dean’s headteacher wife, Caroline, told a jury how she and her husband were terrorised in the run up to his murder, with their house in Silkstone Common, Barnsley daubed with offensive graffiti.
Mrs Dean said they were regularly followed and threatened and described how four youths burst into their home in Silkstone Common, Barnsley, injuring both of them.
On Friday, a jury at Sheffield Crown Court found Scott Dawson, 41, and his mother Carol Dawson, 72, guilty of murder after 12 hours of deliberations.
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”, they said.
The court heard that the Dawsons intended to return and dispose of the body with a digger but it was discovered by a walker.
The jury heard how the dispute over the path had also involved the Dawsons complaining to police about Mr Dean, saying he was damaging their property, and they 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 head 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 comedy scarecrows among the trees.
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 on downstairs and one going upstairs to assault her, leaving her with a broken nose.
She said one of the attackers shouted: “Where are you, you dirty bastard?”
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”.
The judge said that he will hear victim personal statements in court on Friday afternoon but he will not pass sentence on the Dawsons until Monday.
Mrs Dean read a statement to the court which 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.”
Telling the Dawsons they will be sentenced on Monday, Judge Richardson told the pair: “This is, on any analysis, an extremely serious case and Gary Dean was brutally murdered by you.”
Speaking outside court, Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Mark Oughton, who led the investigation, said: “It was an absolutely brutal attack really over a small dispute. 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 which led to the brutal killing of Gary Dean last September.”
He said: “It was totally horrific.”
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. The officer said the claims made about Mr Dean by the Dawsons were “unfounded and false”.