A PRISONER sparked a security scare after vanishing from his cell in a busy court.

The man was behind bars in the cell area of Airdrie Sheriff Court after being brought from prison by security firm G4S.

But custody staff were left horrified when they opened the cell door to find he had apparently vanished into thin air and raised the alarm.

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Sources have claimed an investigation led to the discovery that he had managed to remove a light fitting in the cell and squeeze himself into the roof space above the court building.

Nearby police raced to the scene and surrounded the building as staff searched for the escapee before he was found hiding within the building.

After a short standoff the man surrendered after he was talked back down by staff and placed in another secure cell.

Business within the court carried on uninterrupted following on the incident on Wednesday.

A source said: "This is probably one of the worst things imaginable that could happen in a court.

"Prisoners are brought in and out every day without incident but it seems this man managed to find a way out.

"It caused a bit of panic when the cell door was opened and the man was nowhere to be seen, it was like Harry Houdini.

"These cells are supposed to be totally vandal proof so questions will have to be asked about how this was able to happen.

"Luckily it wasn't a lengthy incident and he was still within the confines of the court building but it still required a serious response by staff and police officers in such an emergency situation."

A Scottish Courts Service spokesman said: "SCTS can confirm that there was an incident in the cell area of Airdrie Sheriff Court.

"It is now under police investigation and we cannot comment further."

A Police Scotland spokeswoman confirmed they had been alerted.

She added: "We received a report of an attempted escape from Airdrie Sheriff Court.

"Officers attended and the man was returned to custody by security staff."

G4S Prisoner Escorting Operations Director, Willie Galloway, said: “There was an incident at Airdrie Sheriff Court when a person in custody briefly entered the roof space within the cell unit before coming down when requested to do so by officers.

"The matter was reported to the police and will be investigated further.

"At no point was the person in custody out with the cell holding area. ”