AN off-duty firefighter was murdered in the street just yards from his home in an apparent gangland-style execution yesterday.

Ralph Sprott, 34, was shot twice in the head with a handgun as he stood near a bus stop in Kilbowie Road, Clydebank, at about 7.50am.

His killer - who was wearing a crash helmet - escaped on a motor cycle after being tackled by a bus driver who got out of his vehicle after witnessing the shooting. The killer rode off down nearby Great Western Road towards Glasgow. The bus driver was uninjured.

Police revealed that the grey-coloured motor cycle had been parked across the street from the bus stop for around two days.

Mr Sprott, who was married with an 11-year-old son and lived in nearby Morar Crescent, ran a firm which provided bouncers for clubs and pubs in the Clydebank area and it is understood he was well known to the police.

Two years ago, he was cleared of attempting to murder a former business partner with whom he had run the security business.

The amateur kick-boxer walked free from the High Court in Airdrie after a jury accepted that he had acted in self-defence when he delivered a powerful kick to John Ferrier, also from Clydebank. The court was told the kick had enough force to leave Mr Ferrier with internal injuries normally seen in victims of car crashes.

Mr Sprott, a full-time firefighter at Clydebank fire station, had a security camera attached to the outside of his house and it is understood his car was set on fire recently. However, police refused to speculate on a motive despite the gangland hallmarks of the murder.

Detectives cordoned off the area around the crime scene as officers carried out a fingertip

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search for clues and interviewed the bus driver.

Superintendent Iain Gordon, of Strathclyde Police, appealed for witnesses to the attack. He said it was significant that the motorcycle had been parked on the road days before the attack. The killer was wearing a black motorcycle helmet, grey top and dark trousers, he said.

A policeman stood guard outside Mr Sprott's smart semi-detached home in a cul-de-sac off Kilbowie Road - 200 yards away from the murder scene - as people arrived to pay their sympathies. The family refused to comment and asked a waiting policeman to convey their wish for privacy.

Local shop manager Faroque Hussein said: ''The community is totally shocked and bewildered by this.

''Everyone is talking about it and rumours are flying around. A shooting is the last thing you'd expect to see on the way to work.''

Robert Ferguson, 38, who lives nearby, said: ''I am shocked and surprised this could happen in Clydebank. It's a very sad thing to happen in this day and age.''

Brian Gillan, 35, who runs a nearby fitted kitchen business, said Mr Sprott was well known in the area. He added: ''He was a likeable guy, I've known him since we were nine or 10. This is a big shock.''

A spokeswoman for Kelvin Buses said: ''The Kelvin Bus driver involved in the incident has been very brave. The company is proud of him.''

Strathclyde Fire Brigade Assistant Firemaster Rab Coke said staff were all stunned by Mr Sprott's death. He said Mr Sprott had been based at the Clydebank station and had served with the brigade for 11 years.

He added: ''Everyone in the brigade I've spoken to was stunned by the news.

''Although I am unable to comment on the circumstances of the incident due to an ongoing police inquiry, I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of Strathclyde Fire Brigade to publicly convey our sympathy to Ralph Sprott's family.''