A U.K. woman and her adult son have been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a man with autism who used a footpath to cut across their property, in what the judge described as a “wicked and cruel” killing.
Scott Dawson, 41, and his mother, Carol Dawson, 72, were convicted after a five-week trial in a Sheffield courtroom. Judge Jeremy Richardson sentenced them to life in prison on Monday, after he described how their close but “toxic” relationship drove them to murder.
“You both fed off the venom within each other,” Richardson said in his judgment on Monday. “Your conduct may only be characterized as deeply malevolent.”
The Dawsons killed 48-year-old Gary Dean, who had autism, last September near their rural property in Barnsley, a jury heard. Dean liked to jog across their property via a footpath, and his presence angered both mother and son. The footpath led through some farmland that the Dawsons had leased to a farmer, but the path was considered open to the public. But the Dawsons became enraged when they saw Dean stray from the path a few times.
“You both regarded Gary Dean very adversely,” the judge told the Dawsons at their sentencing hearing. “Instead of trying to understand his problems and approach them as others had, you waged a vendetta.”
The prosecution laid out how the Dawsons waged a bitter campaign against Dean, reporting him to police, tagging his home with graffiti and accusing him of trying to lure young children into the woods.
They ultimately ambushed Dean on the footpath one day, shooting him in the back with an air rifle. The victim was severely injured but not dead, so the Dawsons pursued him into the woods and beat him to death with rocks and branches, the court heard.
A pedestrian found Dean’s body in a ditch.
“I have little doubt you both encouraged the other to act,” Richardson said. He added that both Dawsons tried to cover up the murder, but they failed to offer a coherent defence of their actions at trial.
Scott Dawson will be jailed for a minimum of 31 years, while Carol Dawson was sentenced to a minimum of 26 years.Follow @JoshKElliott
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