UK

Prank caller convinced elderly couple he was their son confessing murder

Prank caller convinced elderly couple he was their son confessing murder
He was sentenced at Perth Sheriff Court (Picture: Getty)

A prank caller convinced an elderly couple he was their son and had just had sex with a teenager and put her body in his car boot.

Ryan Rattray, 30, chose their number at random and sobbed down the phone as he told them: ‘You dig a hole for her and I’ll do the rest’.

Victims James and Eileen McNeela, from Perth in Scotland, were convinced their son had just done something terrible and were distraught by the 1am call.

They thought it was their son Paul, who lives in Australia, calling about the 15-year-old girl who didn’t exist.

At first Rattry denied making the call, but he finally confessed when police examined his phone and uncovered a video of him doing it at a party with friends.

Rattray appeared at Perth Sheriff Court on Wednesday and admitted making a grossly offensive, menacing phone call to Mr and Mrs McNeela in November last year.

He narrowly avoided prison and was ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.

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Sheriff William Wood said if he had specifically targeted the couple, rather than chosen a number at random, he would have been sent to jail.

Fiscal depute Bill Kermode said 77-year-old Mrs McNeela, who suffers from anxiety, was in bed when the phone rang.

Mr McNeela, 81, answered the call and put it on loud speaker.

He heard a male voice say: ‘I’ve f— up, dad.’

Rattray, who sounded upset and under the influence of drugs, told Mr McNeela he had sex with a 15-year-old girl. ‘I don’t know what to do,’ he said. ‘She’s an amputee and I’ve put her in the boot of my car.’

By this point, Mrs McNeela had joined her husband in the living room.

Mr Kermode said: ‘Mr Rattray was heard sobbing and crying and Mr and Mrs McNeela were very alarmed by that, thinking this was their son.’

Rattray, whose address was listed on court papers as Raeburn Park, told the couple he had been offered white powder from someone at McDonald’s, where he met the girl.

Mr Kermode said: ‘He kept repeating, I don’t know what to do.

‘Mrs McNeela said he should let the girl out of the car immediately, because she must have been terrified.’

Rattray told the couple: ‘Don’t tell Amanda.’ By coincidence, the McNeelas’ real son’s partner is also called Amanda, the court heard.

Rattray went on: ‘Do you think I should dig a hole in the garden?’

Mr Kermode said: ‘Both witnesses were extremely shocked by these comments, thinking their son had harmed or even killed this girl.’

Rattray added: ‘I could go away for a long time for this, because she might go to the police.’

After an anxious night, Mr McNeela called his real son who confirmed he didn’t make the call and suggested they go to the police.

Rattray was soon traced by investigators and taken in for interview. When police showed him the clip, he told them: ‘We were just making prank calls.. Do we have to watch the whole video?’

Solicitor Billy Somerville said: ‘He regrets what he did.

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‘This must have been a most unpleasant experience for the couple. All the things he said he did, they thought to be true.

‘His friends did find this very amusing at the time. They were the ones who put the video on social media.’

Sheriff Wood told Rattray: ‘What you did can only be described as despicable.

‘You must have known this would have caused a considerable amount of upset.’

He said: ‘This was an act which began as idiocy and ended with callousness.’

Mr and Mrs McNeela did not want to comment.

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