Trio plead in Preston sex case

Preston Crown Court

Preston Crown Court

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The manager of a now-defunct city centre hotdog shop and two of his staff have pleaded guilty to a string of sex offences against teenage girls.

Just as a four week trial was about to begin at Preston Crown Court, James Ruehle, 66, of Whinfield Lane, Preston, Kert Birtwistle, 19, of Arundel Place, Preston, and Michael McDougal, 29, of Ashworth Street, Preston, made guilty pleas to alternative charges.

As they were lead into custody, the grandmother of one of the victims shouted: “I hope you rot in hell”.

Ruehle, who owned JR Chicago Hotdogs in Fishergate, had been charged with two offences of raping a girl aged 13 / 14 / 15, one offence of attempt to rape a girl aged 13 / 14 / 15, one offence of assaulting a female 13 and over by penetration with part of body / a thing and one offence of making indecent images. Instead he pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual activity with a child under 16, one count of attempted sexual activity with a child under 16 and one count of secual assault.

Kert Birtwistle, 19, of Arundel Place, Preston, was charged with one offence of raping a girl aged 13 / 14 / 15 and one offence of making indecent images. He pleaded guilty to one count of sexual activity with a child under 16.

Michael McDougal, 29, of Ashworth Street, Preston, was charged with one offence of raping a girl aged 13 / 14 / 15, one offence of making indecent images and two offences of assaulting a female 13 and over by penetration with part of body / a thing. Instead he pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual activity with a child under 16.

All three pleaded guilty to making indecent photos of children. No futher action will be taken over the original indictments.

Adjourning sentencing until November 19, Judge Heather Lloyd said: “You must know that a custodial sentence is envitable.”