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

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Matthew Mason bludgeoned 15-year-old Alex Rodda to death after paying him to keep relationship secret.

A 19-year-old man who groomed and then beat a schoolboy to death in some woods has been jailed for at least 28 years, for what the judge described as a carefully planned, premeditated murder.
Matthew Mason, who bludgeoned 15-year-old Alex Rodda to death with a wrench after paying him more than GBP2,000 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.

Alex Rodda was a loving boy with many friends, his father said.
Alex Rodda was a loving boy with many friends, his father said. Photograph: Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School/PA Media

“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, Adam Rodda, 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.

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