A man who killed a schoolboy after paying him to stop their sexual relationship being revealed has been found guilty of murder.
Matthew Mason admitted bludgeoning 15-year-old Alex Rodda with a wrench in Ashley, Cheshire, in 2019.
The 19-year-old paid Alex more than £2,000 after he contacted his then girlfriend about “flirty” messages, Chester Crown Court heard.
Mason, of Ash Lane in Ollerton, will be sentenced on 25 January.
Lawyers acting for Mason, who denied murder, had claimed the killing was the result of self-defence or a loss of control.
But the jury rejected this and found him guilty of murdering Alex by a majority of 10 to two.
‘Cold and calculating’
As the verdict was returned, Mason appeared to be crying in the dock.
Members of Alex’s family were also in tears. In a statement, they said they had “never come across a more selfish, cold and calculating person” as Mason.
“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,” they said.
Speaking outside the court, Alex’s father Adam Rodda said the trial had been “very difficult” for the family and they were relieved Mason had been found guilty of murder.
“We wouldn’t have accepted anything else, we would have been distraught if any other verdict had been given. We prayed and we are obviously delighted that justice has been done,” he said.
On the evening of 12 December, Mason said he had picked Alex up from his home and drove him to a remote area of woodland where he told him he could not afford to give him any more money.
The agricultural engineering student, who was the son of a farmer, told the court he had taken the wrench with him to “scare him”.
He claimed that, once 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.
Mason said he managed to get the wrench from Alex and recalled hitting him with it twice, although the court heard evidence of further blows.
Alex, a pupil at Holmes Chapel High School, was struck at least 15 times to the head and his body was found by refuse collectors the next morning.
The jury heard Mason had paid Alex more than £2,000 to stop him reporting their “intimate sexual relationship”.
In the month before the murder, Alex contacted Mason’s girlfriend to tell her that her boyfriend had been messaging him “in a flirty way” and had sent an explicit photo and video.
Mason denied the claim but began making payments to the 15-year-old’s bank account.
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 was told.
‘Murder on his mind’
Giving evidence, Mason, who lived with his family on a farm near Knutsford, admitted having sex with Alex but said he thought it was “wrong”.
He told the court 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”.
But he told the court he had been searching the terms because he was suicidal.
After killing Alex, Mason had a drink with friends in the Red Lion pub in Pickmere and The Golden Pheasant pub in Plumley, Cheshire Police said.
He later returned to the woods and the prosecution believe he dragged Alex’s body to the side of the road and attempted to put him inside his car.
After failing to do this, he drove away. But a witness had taken a photo of his Renault Clio car parked on the track and reported this to police.
Mason was identified as the owner and arrested the next day.
Police said Mason had dried blood on his hands and there was a bin bag in his boot with a blood-stained fleece, the wrench and Alex’s jacket in it.
Det Insp Nigel Reid said: “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.”