Murderer, 20, sees his life sentence reduced after successful appeal

Millionaire farmer’s son, 20, who murdered boy, 15, to stop him exposing gay affair has 28 year jail term cut by two years because judge failed to take into account his age and previous ‘good character’

  • Murderer Matthew Mason, now 20, has had his life sentence reduced to 26 years
  • He was described as a ‘ruthless’ killer after he bludgeoned his 15-year-old lover Alex Rodda to death with a metal wrench in Ashley, Cheshire in December 2019
  • The pair had an illicit sexual relationship that Mason feared would come public 
  • He was jailed for a minimum of 28 years after a jury found him guilty of murder 
  • But earlier today Mason’s lawyers successfully appealed his sentence after claiming the original jail term was ‘excessive’ for a ‘young man of this age’ 

The son of a wealthy farmer who had been sentenced to life behind bars after bludgeoning a 15-year-old boy to death has seen his jail term reduced by two years because of his age and previous ‘good character’.

Mason, then 18, lured 15-year-old Alex Rodda to remote woodland near the village of Ashley in Cheshire with the promise of sex before beating him to death with a wrench in December 2019.  

In January this year Mason, now 20, was jailed for life to serve a minimum of 28 years after he was found guilty of murdering his underage lover following a month-long trial at Chester Crown Court.

But an appeal case successfully challenged the ‘excessive’ prison sentence, and today Mason – the son of a millionaire farmer – saw his initial life sentence reduced by two years.

Lawyers representing him submitted that the original prison term was ‘too much for a young man of this age’.  

Appeal judges agreed and said they believed the previous ruling was made in error when considering Mason’s age, level of maturity and previous ‘good character’. 

Matthew Mason, 20, (left) admitted bludgeoning 15-year-old Alex Rodda (right) to death with a wrench in woods in Ashley, Cheshire, on December 12, 2019 but denied murder. He was however found guilty of murder and jailed for a minimum of 28 years

Mason dragged Alex’s body to the track at the side of the road in an attempt to put him inside his car. After failing, he drove away. Mason had dried blood on his hands and inside his car was a bin bag with his blood-stained green fleece, the wrench and Alex’s large padded jacket

Mason drove Alex to a wooded area in secluded woodland in Ashley, Cheshire and subjected him to a ferocious attack

A January trial at Chester Crown Court heard how Mason, of Ash Lane, Ollerton, had lured Alex to a wooded area then used a heavy wrench to repeatedly beat him to the head and body with an estimated 15 blows.

The teenager denied murder, claiming self-defence and a secondary partial defence of loss of control – but the jury saw through his lies and convicted him of murder. 

Judge Steven Everett sentenced Mason to life in prison with a minimum term of 28 years for an attack that he said was ‘carefully planned and ruthlessly carried out’. 

Gordon Cole QC, representing Mason at his appeal, said: ‘We raise no argument that this was an extremely serious offence.

‘We accept the starting point is one of 25 years. We accept the reasoning of the learned judge.

‘We submit, in short form, it’s too much for a young man of this age.’

The court heard that if Mason had been under the age of 18 at the time of the offence, the starting point for his sentence would have been 12 years.

Student Matthew Mason, now 20, saw his life sentence reduced by two years after a successful court appeal today

Lord Justice Holroyde, who heard the appeal with Mr Justice Sweeney and Mr Justice Picken, told the court that 12 years would have been increased ‘substantially’ because of the aggravating factors in the case. 

However, he added that there is ‘well-established case law’ that states courts should not treat a defendant’s 18th birthday as ‘a cliff edge’.

Lord Justice Holroyde continued and said judges had been ‘persuaded that [Judge Everett] fell into error’ in assessing Mason’s age and level of maturity at the time of the offence, as well as failing to take into account previous ‘good character’.

While the judges agreed that the aggravating factors of the killing should increase the minimum term beyond 25 years, they ruled that 28 years was ‘manifestly excessive’.

They quashed the original sentence and handed Mason a fresh sentence of 26 years minus the 406 days he spent on remand.

Mason, who observed proceedings at Mold Crown Court via videolink, did not appear to react as the judgment was handed down.

Ian Unsworth QC, representing the Crown Prosecution Service, argued that Judge Everett had stated that not only was there three years difference in age between Alex Rodda and Mason, but that the killer was ‘so much more emotionally mature’.

In reaching his sentence, Judge Everett had also made reference to Mason’s lack of remorse during a trial lasting more than 15 days, Mr Unsworth said.

He pointed to Judge Everett’s remarks to Mason: ‘I sentence you for the murder of a 15-year-old boy, something I think you will never ever understand.’

After considering the written and oral submissions the Court of Appeal, judges agreed to reduce the minimum sentence handed to Mason from 28 years to 26 years.

During the month-long trial at Cheshire Crown Court, it was revealed that Alex had been in an intimate sexual relationship with Mason prior to the killing in 2019. 

But coming from a wealthy farming background, Mason believed that his friends would not accept him if he was gay or bisexual.

Despite this, Mason, an agricultural engineering student, sent an explicit image to Rodda and the pair met for sex on several occasions.

Alex then began asking Mason for money, threatening to tell his girlfriend and family about the relationship as well as the police.

The 20-year-old had used a long and heavy wrench (pictured) to repeatedly beat 15-year-old Alex to the head and body with an estimated 15 separate blows and causing fatal injuries

Alex’s parents released a video of their 15-year-old son. In a statement, his 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’

In the months leading up to the murder, Mason paid Alex more than £2,000 to stop him exposing their illicit relationship.

After committing his attack, Mason left his victim alone in the woods and disposed of Alex’s mobile phone.

He then visited The Red Lion pub in Pickmere and The Golden Pheasant pub in Plumley where he had a drink with friends before making his way home.

Meanwhile Alex’s mother was becoming increasingly concerned when he did not return home and she made numerous attempts to ring his phone but the calls would not connect.

She rang a number of his friends who said they had not seen or spoken to him that evening.

As Alex’s friends knew he had formed a relationship with Mason they messaged him over two hours, desperate to know he was safe and well.

Alex’s mother was made aware of this and contacted Mason before reporting her son missing to police.

Most of their calls and messages went unanswered as Mason travelled back to the scene of his horrific crime in the early hours of 13 December 2019.  

After Alex’s body was found a witness informed police he had taken a photo shortly after 6pm on 12 December 2019. 

Mason was stopped by officers as he drove towards Telford, on the A41 in Staffordshire, shortly before midday on 13 December 2019.

Mason had dried blood on his hands and fingers and inside the boot of his car was a bin bag with his blood stained green fleece, the wrench, and Alex’s large padded jacket. 

Speaking after the court case concluded in January, Alex’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.

‘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.’

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