A teen has been found guilty of murdering a 15-year-old schoolboy after he allegedly threatened to expose their relationship.
Matthew Mason, 19, was accused of beating Alex Rodda, 15, to death with a wrench in a remote woodland in Ashley, Cheshire, on December 12 last year.
Mason burst into tears in the dock when the verdict was delivered after a jury of seven women and five men found him guilty of murder by a majority of 10 to two at Chester Crown Court today.
Members of Alex’s family embraced and were also in tears, as were two of the jurors.
Honorary recorder of Chester Judge Steven Everett thanked the jury and said: “No-one can pretend this has been an easy case.”
Alex’s family today paid tribute to their ‘loving, kind and caring’ boy whose life was ‘cut short all too soon’.
During the trial, Mason said he met Alex to tell him the ‘blackmail had to stop’ and only hit the youngster in self-defence after he attacked him.
However, prosecutors rejected Mason’s account as a pack of lies and accused him of murdering the schoolboy.
Mason had paid Alex more than £2,000 after he allegedly threatened to share intimate images he had sent to the 15-year-old, jurors heard.
Alex allegedly told Mason’s girlfriend about the picture and initially demanded £50 from the then-18-year-old to stop him putting the photograph on social media.
Chester Crown Court heard Mason, who admitted he engaged in sexual activity with Alex on three occasions in November and December, took money from his savings and borrowed from his grandmother to pay him.
He said on December 12 he agreed to give Alex a lift to Holmes Chapel but took him to the woods in Ashley after Alex asked if they could go somewhere.
Mason, an agricultural engineering student at Reaseheath College, said he was “intimidated” by Alex so took a spanner with him when they left the car and walked into the woods.
He said: “I told him I couldn’t afford to give him any more money and that I wouldn’t give him any more money in the future.”
He said he told Alex the situation was making him suicidal but Alex responded by calling him “f***ing stupid” and an “idiot”.
Mason told the court: “He said to me something he’d said once before, ‘I said I’ll ruin your life financially or socially and I meant it’ and then he pushed me on the floor.”
He claimed the spanner fell onto the floor and Alex grabbed it and hit him on the head with it before starting to punch him.
Mason said he eventually managed to get the spanner from Alex and remembered hitting him with it twice.
He accepted evidence showed he hit the Holmes Chapel High School pupil at least 15 times.
He said: “When I eventually got control of myself again I remember kneeling on the ground with the spanner in my hand and Alex was lying on the floor, still breathing, quite clearly very injured.”
He added: “I felt sick. I couldn’t believe it, I was in shock.”
However, prosecutor Mr Ian Unsworth QC accused Mason of a constant stream of lies.
He told the jury: “What Matthew Mason did was tell lies and he told lie after lie.
“He had been running from the truth. We say that the evidence is simple. It is straight forward and it is simple.
“The evidence is that Matthew Mason murdered Alex Rodda.”
The prosecutor said the evidence, especially from the pathologist, showed Mason did not act in self-defence.
The court heard following 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.
He admitted leaving Alex while he was unconscious and throwing his phone out of the car window.
The court heard Mason, who returned to the scene later that night, was arrested the following day after Alex’s body was discovered by refuse collectors.
Speaking after the verdict was delivered today, Alex’s family released a statement paying tribute to him.
It 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.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the jury for coming to the right decision.
“We would also like to thank Detective Inspector Nigel Reid and his team of officers from Cheshire Constabulary for all their hard work over the last 12 months and in particular the family liaison officers, David Edon and Lucy Kennedy, who have supported us through this particularly difficult time.”
Detective Inspector Nigel Reid, from Cheshire Police’s Major Investigation Team, described a “painstaking investigation involving a dedicated team of detectives.”
He said after the verdict came in: “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.”
Meanwhile the judge has thanked jurors for their service, describing the “difficult case” with them having to “sit and listen to terrible things.”
He said: “I want to thank you. This has been a difficult case, nobody can contend.
“All juries have to try cases and sometimes have to sit and listen to terrible things. You have that truly terrible and difficult task.
“You have carefully considered all evidence.
“It’s not my position to pass an opinion in this case.
“But you will know the evidence in this case was overwhelming.
“You had to decide what was in his mind. You now have to trust me to pass the appropriate sentence.”
Mason, of Ash Lane, Ollerton, will be sentenced at a later date.