January 2021

Man, 19, who groomed and murdered schoolboy jailed for life

A 19-year-old man who groomed and then beat a schoolboy to death in some woods in Cheshire has been jailed for at least 28 years, for what the judge described as a carefully planned, premeditated murder.

Matthew Mason, who killed 15-year-old Alex Rodda with a wrench after paying him more than £2,000 in an attempt to stop him revealing their sexual relationship, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Monday at Chester crown court.

Sentencing Mason, Judge Stephen Everett said he was a selfish individual who had deliberately chosen the “devastating weapon” and secret spot in woods outside Ashley, near Altrincham, on 12 December 2019.

He said that Mason, who was older and more emotionally mature than his victim, had groomed and encouraged the relationship with Rodda by sending him an explicit photo and a video.

“This was carefully planned and ruthlessly carried out, showing no empathy and a callous disregard for Alex, his family and friends,” the judge told Mason.

Alex’s father described his son as a loving boy with many school friends in a statement to the court.

Lisa Rodda, Alex’s mother, said: “When you lose your child in the most horrific and brutal circumstances, as parents you really do experience hell.”

Mason admitted beating Alex to death but denied murder, saying he had experienced a loss of control during the killing after being blackmailed by the younger teenager. The trial heard they had a brief sexual relationship before Alex told Mason’s then girlfriend that the older teenager had sent him explicit photos and messages.

Mason, who lived with his family on a farm near Knutsford, Cheshire, claimed Alex had tried to attack him before his death.

Mason told jurors he had asked friends and family for money to pay Alex but did not tell them what it was for.

He said he was embarrassed and worried after having sex with the younger boy, adding that he thought it was wrong “because he was a male and, secondly, his age”.

Evidence showed that Alex had been struck at least 15 times in what was described by the prosecution as a “brutal” attack.

The court heard that after the attack Mason left the scene and went to a friend’s farm to clean up, and then to two pubs where he met friends – in part to form an alibi.

The court heard Mason, who returned to the scene later that night, was arrested the following day after refuse collectors discovered Alex’s body.

Mason was found guilty of murder by a majority of jurors at Chester crown court on 7 January.

January 2021

Man, 19, guilty of murdering schoolboy he paid £2,000 to keep silent

A 19-year-old man has been found guilty of murdering a schoolboy after paying more than £2,000 to try to stop him revealing their sexual relationship.

Matthew Mason admitted bludgeoning 15-year-old Alex Rodda to death with a wrench in woods in Cheshire on 12 December 2019.

The court heard they had been involved in a brief sexual relationship before Rodda told Mason’s girlfriend that the older teenager had sent him explicit photos and a video.

Mason argued at trial that he had experienced a loss of control during the killing and had been blackmailed by Rodda, who he claimed had tried to attack him before his death.

He was found guilty of murder by a majority of jurors at Chester crown court last Thursday. He will be sentenced at a later date.

Mason, an architectural engineering student, wept in the dock as the guilty verdict was returned. He previously told jurors he had asked friends and family for money to pay Rodda but did not tell them what it was for. He said he was embarrassed and worried after having sex with the younger boy, adding that he thought it was wrong “because he was a male and, secondly, his age”.

The trial heard Rodda had contacted Mason’s then girlfriend and told her he had been sending “flirty” messages and an explicit picture and video. Mason denied the allegations to his girlfriend but began making payments to Rodda’s bank account at around the same time, amounting to more than £2,200 by the time of Rodda’s death.

The court heard Mason had searched the internet for phrases including “what would happen if you kicked someone down the stairs” and “everyday poison”. He said he was looking for ways to kill himself as he felt depressed and suicidal following the end of his relationship with his girlfriend.

The court heard that Mason picked the younger boy up from his home in Tabley, Cheshire, and drove him to a remote spot on the night of the murder.

Mason, who lived on his family’s farm near Knutsford, Cheshire, said he told Rodda that he could not afford to give him any more money. He said he had taken a wrench with him because he felt intimidated by the teenager and wanted to scare him.

Mason claimed that Rodda had grabbed the wrench from him and pushed him to the floor. Evidence showed that Rodda had been struck at least 15 times in what was described by the prosecution as a brutal attack.