File picture: Manfred Antranias Zimmer/Pixabay

A mother and son were on Friday convicted of murdering an ‘eccentric’ jogger by shooting him and bludgeoning him to death after waging a vendetta against him for two years.

Gary Dean, 48, was shot in the back with an airgun and beaten with a rock as he took his morning jog across fields owned by Carol and Scott Dawson, a court heard.

They had complained to police about Mr Dean, who was autistic, making claims of arson and fly-tipping.

His wife Caroline told their trial at Sheffield Crown Court that her unemployed husband ‘wouldn’t want to harm anyone’ and had only put scarecrows on the family’s land.

However, the Dawsons became fixated with him and were furious when police didn’t take their side. Scott Dawson, 41, warned police last year: ‘You will be here as I will be ripping him in half.’ Carol Dawson, 72, told them: ‘Somebody is going to end up getting killed.’

Days later, on September 6, Mr Dean, who had completed the London Marathon 18 times, set off for a run at around 7am after his wife, a headteacher, left their home near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, to go to work.

But as he crossed nearby Silkstone Common the mother and son ambushed him, shooting him in the back with an air rifle before bludgeoning him to death with a rock and branches.

They allegedly meant to return and dispose of Mr Dean with a digger, but his body was found in a ditch at 5.40pm by a passer-by who heard his phone ringing.

Peter Moulson QC, prosecuting, told the jury there had been a vendetta against Mr Dean. He said the Dawsons blamed him for causing problems on their land and took matters into their own hands. In 2016 his car and house were daubed with the words ‘STAY AWAY’ and ‘PAEDO’ – a slur that detectives insisted was false.

In June 2017, four youths broke into the Deans’ home while they slept and assaulted them.

Mr Moulson said when Mr Dean’s body was found a pellet was lodged in his spine, and dirt on his hands and knees suggested he had ‘scrabbled on all fours before he was killed’. Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Mark Oughton said Scott Dawson was ‘threatening and aggressive’ and Mr Dean could be ‘odd, even unpleasant’.

But he added: ‘Many neighbours and friends gave evidence that Mr Dean was well liked and always willing to help people.’

Mrs Dean said: ‘Gary was quirky, eccentric, but wouldn’t harm anyone. I am haunted by the fact that the last moments of Gary’s life were so violent. He 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.’

Warning the Dawsons that they will be jailed for life on Monday, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said: ‘Justice has, I’m sure, been done.’

Daily Mail