A farmer’s son who murdered a schoolboy after paying more than £2,000 to stop him revealing their sexual relationship has been sentenced to a minimum of 28 years in custody.
Matthew Mason, 20, admitted bludgeoning 15-year-old Alex Rodda to death with a wrench in woods in Ashley, Cheshire, on December 12 2019 but denied murder, arguing he experienced a loss of control after being blackmailed by the teenager.
Earlier this month a jury at Chester Crown Court rejected his claims and found him guilty of murder by a majority verdict.
Sentencing Mason on Monday to a life term, the Honorary Recorder of Chester Judge Steven Everett told him: “This was a pre-meditated murder, carefully planned and, in my judgment, ruthlessly carried out showing no empathy for your victim and a callous disregard for his family and friends.”
The judge said Mason, from Ollerton, Cheshire was “much more worldly wise” than his victim who was young and immature for his age.
He told the defendant: “Although I accept Alex Rodda may very well have initiated contact with you in the latter half of 2019, I am sure that you not only responded but actively encouraged a sexual relationship. You groomed him. It was not your first sexual experience but it was his.
“While it is clear that Alex Rodda naively, as I see it, demanded money from you. It must be firmly kept in mind that this all came about because of your sexual offending and you chose to behave in that way.
“You made a firm and clear decision to kill Alex Rodda some time in early December 2019. This was not something on the spur of the moment. You were hoping you would kill him and hide his body to make it look as if he simply decided to disappear.
“You went about it with a ruthlessness which utterly beggars belief for any person, let alone someone in their teens.”
The trial heard Alex had contacted Mason’s then girlfriend, Caitlyn Lancashire, in November 2019 and told her that he had been sending “flirty” messages as well as 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.
Giving evidence, Mason, of Ash Lane, Ollerton, admitted having sex with Alex but said he thought that it was “wrong”. The agricultural engineering student, who was involved in the Young Farmers’ group, said he did not believe his friends would accept him if he was gay or bisexual.
Evidence showed Alex, from Tabley, Cheshire, had been struck at least 15 times in what was described by the prosecution as a “brutal” attack after he was lured to the remote spot.
The court heard Mason left Alex unconscious at the scene and went to a friend’s farm to clean up and then to two pubs where he met friends.
He returned to the scene later that night and was arrested the following day after Alex’s body was discovered by refuse collectors.
Alex’s parents read out their victim personal statements from the witness box as Mason looked on blankly from the dock.
His mother Lisa said: “When you lose a child in the most horrific and brutal circumstances as a parent you really do experience hell.
“My boy was raised in love, not fear.
“He did not have to wear a mask.
“I brought my son to be proud of who he was.
“He was 15, he was full of joy, inspiration, enthusiasm for life.
“He lived in love, he was raised in love.
“He brought joy and light wherever he went.”
Alex’s father, Adam, said: “He was a fun-loving, respectful boy who always considered other people’s feelings.
“We will never get over the loss of our beautiful, loving boy.
“Our lives will never be the same again.
“As a father I feel I failed to protect my beautiful boy.
“I will never get over that feeling.
“I will miss and cherish the time we had.”
Addressing Mr Rodda, Judge Everett said he had dealt with many cases over the years involving people who had died and relatives would often say they felt they should have protected them better.
He told him: “It is not your fault.
“You did nothing wrong and it’s really important you should feel that.”