TWO men accused of the cold-blooded murder of firefighter Ralph Sprott walked from court yesterday after the jury returned a not proven verdict.

Mr John Ferrier, 36, had denied ordering the contract killing of his former business partner.

Bodybuilder Ferrier was alleged to have vowed revenge after being beaten up by Sprott and called a grass for going to the police.

A high court jury found Sprott had acted in self defence and cleared him of attemped murder.

The High Court in Glasgow heard allegations that Mr Ferrier paid #10,000 to Mr James Dunn, 33, to carry out a revenge killing in broad daylight.

Yesterday, after four weeks of evidence, it took the jury only 90 minutes to reach their verdict.

Mr Ferrier, of Craigton Street, Clydebank, walked out into the sunshine after spending five months in jail while he awaited trial.

He was driven away by friends without making any comment.

Seconds later, Mr Dunn, of Portsoy, Erskine, Renfrewshire, walked out and said: ''I am glad it's all over. I just want to go home to be with my son, Kyle.''

The dead man's brother, Mark, 29, a prison officer, said with tears in his eyes: ''It's pathetic.''

During the trial, the jury heard eye-witnesses tell how Mr Sprott had been shot last May in front of screaming early morning workers before the killer escaped on a motor cycle.

Two women identified Mr Dunn after the shooting and in court as allegedly being the killer.

The court heard how 6ft 3inch tall martial arts expert Sprott, 34, was murdered as he walked to work near his home at 7.45am.

His killer, who had parked a 1000cc motor cycle across the road before joining a bus queue, waited for three days before spotting Mr Sprott walking to work in Kilbowie Road

Mr Sprott had just kissed his son, Paul, and wife, Paulene, goodbye at their home in Morar Crescent, before setting out for the local fire station.

As he walked past the bus shelter, his killer fell in step behind him and shot him in the back of the head.

One witness, Mrs Maureen Campbell, 41, was so traumatised she lost her memory for a fortnight. She later identified Mr Dunn in court as allegedly being the hooded murderer.

Self-confessed motor-cycle thief, Brian McKendrick, 35, claim Mr Dunn asked him for a motorbike. He claimed Mr Dunn said he wanted the bike for a ''job'' which would take only a few minutes and that he would be able to repay #2000 he owed McKendrick.

After the murder, police found the bike and Mr Dunn's fingerprints and belongings in the lock-up where McKendrick had left it. The keys to the bike and the lock-up were found down Mr Dunn's sock.

He claimed in evidence he had been at home with his five-year-old son, Kyle, at the time of the murder.

Mr Dunn, who was defended by Mr Donald Findlay, QC, denied being the gunman and said he only supplied the bike to a criminal he named as Stephen McColl, known as ''McGoo''.

Forensic evidence showed powder from the murder cartridge was on Mr Dunn's glove and inside his jacket.

Detectives also found a scribbling pad beside his phone which the Crown claimed showed how he had spent #7000 after the murder.

Advocate-depute Alister Campbell,QC, prosecuting, told the jury Mr Dunn had given a ''clever and smooth performance'' in the witness box.

Mr Campbell said the evidence showing Mr Dunn was the hired assassin was ''overwhelming''.

Mr Ferrier, a security alarm engineer, denied saying Mr Sprott had ''signed his own death warrant'' after being cleared of assaulting him.

Mr Ferrier had his spleen ruptured and his ribs and skull fractured.

He denied in evidence he had anything to do with the murder and said he was in Spain at the time of the shooting.

The jury heard that both men were bodybuilders and had been partners in a stewarding business. They had fallen out after Mr Ferrier sacked Mr Sprott's bouncers from a club he owned.

Mr Sprott was described in court as a ''Mr Clean'' who tried to keep drugs out of local public houses and clubs.

He had told the jury during his trial at Airdrie High Court he had been enticed into going to Ferrier's office, where he was attacked by him and another man with an iron bar.

The jury unanimously accepted Mr Sprott put both his attackers in hospital while defending himself.

It was then Mr Ferrier allegedly began making the death threats and tried to find someone to carry out the killing, it was claimed.

He worked out at the David Lloyd sports club in Renfrew along with Mr Dunn.