A 19-year-old UK man has been found guilty of the murder of a schoolboy, after paying him to keep their sexual relationship a secret.

The court heard Alex Rodda, 15, was bludgeoned with a wrench by Matthew Mason in a secluded woodland area in Cheshire on the evening of December 12, 2019.

Alex’s body was discovered in woodlands in Cheshire

According to his testimony, Mason had a girlfriend but began to questions his sexuality after Alex, “persuaded” him to have sex on multiple occasions.

After receiving an explicit picture and video from Mason, Alex reached out to Mason’s girlfriend, informing her that her boyfriend had been messaging him “in a flirty way”.

While Mason denied this claim, he immediately began depositing money into the 15-year-old’s bank account.

During the month before his murder, Alex received more than £2,200 from Mason to stop him revealing their “intimate sexual relationship”,  the court was told.

The age of consent in the UK is 16.

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 Mason admitted to having sex with Alex but told the court he felt it was “wrong” and believed his friends would reject him if he were exposed as being gay or bisexual.

In a media statement, Rodda’s family 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.”

According to Mason, he arranged to meet Alex, but only intended to end their relationship and the blackmail.

Mason admitted to attacking Alex, but pleaded innocent of murder, claiming his actions were in self-defence or a loss of control.

In his testimony, Mason described a struggle instigated by Alex, and only recalled striking him twice. Evidence was later presented indicating Alex had been bludgeoned in the head at least 15 times before being left for dead.

The court also heard testimony that in the week leading up to the murder, Mason had made internet searches like “what would happen if you kicked someone down the stairs”, “everyday poison” and “the mysteries of Cheshire unsolved deaths of missing people”. He told the court this was because he was suicidal.

The wrench used by Mason

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 While this crime is tragic, it may be symptomatic of an increasingly conservative environment in the UK.

Late last year, the BBC found “the number of reported homophobic hate crime cases almost trebled – from 6,655 in 2014-15, the year same sex marriage became legal in England, to 18,465 in 2019-20.”

The same article found there had been a 20% rise in reports to police of homophobic hate crime in 2020 alone.

Matthew Mason will be sentenced on January 25.

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

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