A farmer’s son has been found guilty of murdering a 15-year-old in a ‘ferocious and merciless attack’ after believing the schoolboy would expose their sexual affair.
Matthew Mason lured Alex Rodda to remote woodland near the village of Ashley in Cheshire with the promise of sex before beating him to death with a wrench.
Mason had been involved in an intimate sexual relationship with Alex, but the 15-year-old allegedly threatened to expose their relationship after finding out Mason had been dating a girl for two years, the court heard.
In the week before the murder, Mason made internet searches for phrases including ‘what would happen if you kicked someone down the stairs’, ‘everyday poison’ and ‘The mysteries of Cheshire unsolved deaths of missing people’.
Alex’s semi-naked body was found by refuse collectors on December 13, 2019. His head and body had suffered at least 15 blows.
After the 19-year-old was found guilty of murder at Chester Crown Court today, Alex’s family said: ‘We have never come across a more selfish, cold and calculating person.’
Matthew Mason, 19, (left) admitted bludgeoning 15-year-old Alex Rodda (right) to death with a wrench in woods in Ashley, Cheshire, on December 12, 2019
The 19-year-old had used a heavy and long wrench to repeatedly beat Alex to the head and body with an estimated 15 separate blows
Mason went into the woods and dragged Alex’s body to the track at the side of the road in an attempt to put him inside his car. After failing to do this he then drove away. Mason had dried blood on his hands and fingers and inside the boot of his car was a bin bag with his blood stained green fleece, the wrench and Alex’s large padded jacket
Mason drove 15-year-old Alex Rodda to a remote wooded area in Ashley, Cheshire and subjected him to a ferocious and merciless attack
Matthew Mason (pictured left), 19, bludgeoned Alex Rodda (right), 15, to death with a wrench in Ashley, Cheshire. Mason admitted hitting Rodda with the wrench but denied murder
Grief-stricken family slam ‘selfish, cold and calculating’ teen killer
In a statement, Alex’s family said: ‘Our son Alex was a wonderful, gentle, loving, kind, caring, respectful boy who loved life and lived life to the full. His precious life was cut short all too soon at the hands of Matthew Mason.
‘Mason admitted killing Alex from the outset of this trial but still felt the need to put us through the trauma of this trial in an attempt to minimise his sentence.
‘He never once considered the pain it would put our family through, or indeed his own family.
‘We have never come across a more selfish, cold and calculating person.
‘Mason has attempted to blame Alex and discredit his name throughout this trial, and thankfully the jury were able to see through his web of deceit.’
Mason, from Knutsford in Cheshire, admitted hitting Alex with the wrench but denied murder, arguing he acted in self-defence and that he had lost control after being provoked.
He had paid Alex more than £2,000 over three weeks, in an attempt to stop his secret coming out.
Mason told the court he did not believe his friends would accept him if he was gay or bisexual.
The trial heard Alex had contacted Mason’s then girlfriend, Caitlyn Lancashire, in November 2019 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 Alex’s bank account at around the same time.
By the time of Alex’s death, Mason had transferred more than £2,200 and was asking friends and family to borrow money, the court heard.
Mason, who lived with his family on a farm near Knutsford, admitted having sex with Alex but said he thought it was ‘wrong’.
The agricultural engineering student, who was involved in the Young Farmer’s group, said he was straight but began questioning his sexuality following messages from Alex.
On December 12, 2019, Mason picked up Alex from outside his house and drove him to a secluded woodland area outside Ashley, near Altrincham, prosecutor Ian Unsworth QC told jurors.
He beat the popular schoolboy to death with a large metal wrench in what the pathologist described as ‘a violent, repetitive assault.’
Mason stayed with Alex’s body for around an hour before leaving the area and going to a friend’s outhouse to clean himself up.
He then went to two different pubs where he was seen on CCTV having a pint with friends and sending a Snapchat selfie to his group of friends of him smiling, which was shown to the court.
At around 2am, Mason drove back to the secluded spot and attempted to move Alex’s body by dragging it from the woodland. After moving his body 20m, he gave up and drove home.
Alex’s mother was becoming increasingly concerned when he did not return home and she made numerous attempts to ring his phone but the calls would not connect.
She rang a number of his friends, who knew he had formed a relationship with Mason so messaged him over two hours.
Alex’s mother was made aware of this and contacted Mason before reporting her son missing to police.
Most of their calls and messages went unanswered as Mason travelled back to the scene of his crime.
Alex’s parents today released a heartbreaking video of their 15-year-old son. In a statement, his family said: ‘Our son Alex was a wonderful, gentle, loving, kind, caring, respectful boy who loved life and lived life to the full. His precious life was cut short all too soon at the hands of Matthew Mason’
Alex’s mother Lisa Rodda, pictured arriving at Chester Crown Court in December
The order of service from the 15-year-old’s funeral on Wednesday 29 January, 2020
Mason said he had taken the wrench with him because he felt ‘intimidated’ by Alex and intended to use it to ‘scare’ him.
He claimed once they were in the woods Alex had threatened to ruin his life ‘financially or socially’ and pushed him to the floor, grabbing the wrench and hitting Mason with it.
Mason said he managed to get the wrench from Alex and remembered hitting him with it twice, although later in his evidence he recalled details of further blows.
Evidence showed Alex had been struck at least 15 times in what was described by the prosecution as a ‘brutal’ attack.
The court heard Mason was arrested the following day after Alex’s body was discovered by refuse collectors.
Mason had dried blood on his hands and fingers and inside the boot of his car was a bin bag with his blood stained green fleece, the wrench and Alex’s large padded jacket.
Detective Inspector Nigel Reid, of Cheshire Police, said: ‘Mason had murder on his mind as he drove Alex to his death under the pretence of sexual activity.
‘He chose a secluded place to kill him in cold blood, a place he believed he would go unseen and his crime undetected.’
Mason will be sentenced at a later date.