Farmer’s son tried to ‘sneak away’ from schoolboy murder conviction, says judge

Honorary Recorder of Chester Judge Steven Everett told Matthew Mason, 19, he was found guilty ‘on overwhelming evidence’.

Alex Rodda death
Alex Rodda death

A farmer’s son who murdered a schoolboy after paying more than £2,000 to stop him revealing their sexual relationship tried to “sneak away” from a conviction, a judge has said.

Matthew Mason, 19, admitted bludgeoning 15-year-old Alex Rodda to death with a wrench in woods in Ashley, Cheshire, on December 12 2019 but denied murder, claiming he experienced a loss of control after being blackmailed by the teenager.

On Thursday, a jury at Chester Crown Court found him guilty of murder by a majority of 10 to two after nine-and-a-half hours of deliberation.

Matthew Mason
Matthew Mason, 19, was found guilty of murder by a jury sitting at Chester Crown Court (Handout/Cheshire Constabulary/PA)

Adjourning the case to January 25 for sentencing, Honorary Recorder of Chester Judge Steven Everett said: “Frankly, you were convicted on overwhelming evidence.

“You ran this trial as long as you possibly could in the hope you could sneak away from a conviction of murder.”

Mason, who lived with his family on a farm near Knutsford, appeared to be crying in the dock as the verdict was returned.

Alex’s family members were also in tears, as were two of the jurors.

Alex Rodda’s family
Alex Rodda’s family (Peter Byrne/PA)

Speaking outside court, Alex’s father Adam said: “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.”

The trial, which began on December 7, 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.

Alex Rodda
Fifteen-year-old Alex Rodda was bludgeoned to death with a wrench (Handout/Cheshire Constabulary/PA)

Giving evidence, Mason, of Ash Lane, Ollerton, admitted having sex with Alex but said he thought 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.

In the week before Alex’s death, 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”.

On the evening of December 12, he said he had picked Alex up from his home in Tabley, Cheshire, and driven him to the remote spot where he told him he could not afford to give him any more money.

Woodland in Ashley, Cheshire, where teenager Alex Rodda was murdered
Woodland in Ashley, Cheshire, where teenager Alex Rodda was murdered (Cheshire Constabulary/PA)

Mason said he had taken the wrench with him because he intended to “scare” Alex.

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.

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 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.

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