A student who “brutally” murdered an underage schoolboy after paying him more than £2,000 to stop him revealing their sexual relationship has been jailed for life.
“Cold and calculating” Matthew Mason admitted beating Alex Rodda, 15, to death with a wrench in woodland but denied murder and claimed he lost control after the victim blackmailed him.
The 20-year-old defendant, who had to ask his family for money to pay Rodda, searched the internet for “everyday poison” and “the mysteries of Cheshire unsolved deaths of missing people”, Chester Crown Court heard.
He was convicted of Rodda’s murder by a majority jury verdict earlier in January and Mason appeared to cry as the decision was announced.
On Monday, he was sentenced to a minimum term of 28 years behind bars.
Judge Steven Everett, sentencing, said: “This was a premeditated 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.”
He said while it was “cleared” Rodda demanded money, it came about because of Mason’s “sexual offending” and said that although the schoolboy may have initiated contact, the murderer had groomed Rodda.
“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,” he said.
“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 judge previously remarked that Mason was convicted “on overwhelming evidence” and that he “ran this trial as long as you possibly could in the hope you could sneak away from a conviction of murder”.
The court heard that Mason, of Ollerton, Cheshire, had to deny sending “flirty” messages and an explicit photo to Rodda after the Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School pupil contacted Mason’s girlfriend in November 2019.
However, around that time he started making payments to Rodda’s bank account, ultimately transferring more than £2,200 and asking relatives to borrow cash.
Agricultural engineering student Mason told the court he did have sex with Rodda, of Tabley, but thought it was “wrong” and was worried if his friends would accept him if he was gay or bisexual.
In the week up to the murder, he also searched the web for “what would happen if you kicked someone down the stairs”.
Mason picked up Rodda from his home and took him to woods in Ashley on 12 December. He said he had hoped to scare him with the wrench and told him he could not afford to pay him any more.
He said Rodda threatened to ruin him “financially or socially” and that the schoolboy grabbed the wrench and hit Mason with it.
But prosecutors said Mason’s attack launched a “brutal” attack and the court heard Rodda was left unconscious after being hit at least 15 times.
He then went to two pubs to meet friends the same evening after cleaning up at a friend’s farm.
Refuse collectors found Rodda’s body the next day.
Rodda’s mother Lis said: “When you lose a child in the most horrific and brutal circumstances as a parent you really do experience hell.
“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.”
His 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.”
Judge Everett said what happened to Rodda was not Adam’s fault.
“You did nothing wrong and it’s really important you should feel that,” he added.
Watch: What you can and can’t do in lockdown