Hot dog shop sex allegation

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The manager of a city centre hotdog shop and two of his staff have appeared in court charged with a string of sex offences against teenage girls.

James Ruehle, 67, owner of JR Chicago Hotdogs in Fishergate appeared in the dock beside Kert Birtwistle, 19, and Michael McDougall, 30.

The court heard all the alleged victims were vulnerable teenage girls, aged between 14 and 17 years old, who had come into contact with the men through the takeaway in Fishergate.

However all three men denied any involvement in abusing the girls in August and September last year.

Police arrested the men in November and charged all three with rape in respect of three separate teenagers on August 12.

There were also charges of sexual assault, attempted rape and taking indecent photos of the girls on the same day.

Ruehle and Birtwistle, were arrested on the premises and McDougall was arrested later in the day.

But when the arrests were reported in the Evening Post, another teenager alleged she had been raped by Ruehle and two girls came forward to claim he had sexually assaulted them in August and September of last year.

Ruehle, formerly of Whinfield Lane, Ashton, wore a suit while his former employees dressed more casually as they appeared at Preston Crown Court. They spoke only to confirm their identities and enter pleas of not guilty to all charges.

A trial date has been set for July 27 when it understood the men will fight against the allegations made against them.

Birtwistle, of Lincoln House, Avenham, and McDougall, of Ashworth Street, Preston, and their former boss Ruehle, have been remanded in custody until they return to court.

Ruehle denies eight counts of rape, one count of attempted rape, five counts of sexual assault and a count of taking indecent images.

McDougall denies one rape, two sexual assaults and taking indecent images and Birtwistle denies rape and taking indecent images.