The teenage son of a millionaire farmer has been sentenced to life for murdering his 15-year-old lover in a ‘ferocious and merciless attack’ to stop the schoolboy exposing their sexual affair to his girlfriend.
Matthew Mason, 20, will serve a minimum of 28 years in prison after he was convicted of the pre-meditated murder of 15-year-old Alex Rodda at Chester Crown Court earlier this month.
During the trial, the court heard 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 affair 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.
Sentencing Mason 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.’
Matthew Mason, 20, (left) admitted bludgeoning 15-year-old Alex Rodda (right) to death with a wrench in woods in Ashley, Cheshire, on December 12, 2019
The 20-year-old had used a heavy and long wrench (pictured) to repeatedly beat 15-year-old Alex to the head and body with an estimated 15 separate blows and causing fatal injuries
Mason dragged Alex’s body to the track at the side of the road in an attempt to put him inside his car. After failing, he drove away. Mason had dried blood on his hands and inside his car was a bin bag with his blood-stained green fleece, the wrench and Alex’s large padded jacket
Mason drove Alex to a wooded area in Cheshire and subjected him to a ferocious and attack
Matthew Mason (pictured left), 20, 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.’
After the 20-year-old was found guilty of murder earlier this month, Alex’s family said: ‘We have never come across a more selfish, cold and calculating person.’
Mason admitted hitting Alex with the wrench but denied murder, arguing he acted in self-defence and that he had lost control after being provoked.
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 released a 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.
Evidence showed Alex had been struck at least 15 times in what was described by the prosecution as a ‘brutal’ attack.
Mason was arrested the following day after Alex’s body was discovered.
The 20-year-old, who was 18 at the time, 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, from Cheshire Police’s Major Investigation Team, said: ‘It has been a painstaking investigation involving a dedicated team of detectives.
‘They have worked extremely hard to gather evidence to show the true extent of the relationship between Mason and Alex and the true picture of what happened that night.
‘I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to Mr and Mrs Rodda for their patience and support throughout the investigation.
‘The true extent of Mason and Alex’s relationship could not have been done without the bravery and courage of Alex’s friends.
‘They provided key information to the investigation, despite their grief and heartache, in order to secure justice for their friend.
‘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.
‘Alex was a popular young boy who was much loved by his family and friends. I hope the conviction of Mason helps Alex’s family and his close friends to come to terms with such a terrible tragedy.
‘My thoughts continue to be with them all.’
David Keane, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said: ‘I would like to commend the investigation team who worked tirelessly to gather crucial evidence in order to secure justice for Alex, his family and friends.
‘His death shocked the local community and all those who were close to him. My thoughts are with them during this difficult time.’