A THUG linked to the high-profile hunt for a then missing mum has been cleared of murdering Stevenston dad John Smith.

But, Craig Munro was still jailed for nine years at the High Court in Glasgow after being found guilty of attempting to murder his nephew John McDade.

Craig Munro had been accused of killing John Smith, 52, at a house in Stevenston in October last year.

Violence erupted amid claims Farrah Gillespie had been 'stirring things up' between 31-year-old Munro and Mr McDade.

Jurors heard comments had been made about Munro and Mr McDade having both had sex with the same woman.

Miss Gillespie was later reported missing and found to be in the company of Munro and 27-year-old Allan Robertson shortly after the alleged killing.

The incident emerged as a jury today returned a not proven verdict to claims he killed Mr Smith.

Jurors heard how Mr McDade had turned up at Miss Gillespie's home in Ayr, South Ayrshire last October.

Munro – who he did not know – was also there. He went on to quiz Mr McDade about a woman he was dating.

It emerged the thug had also once been in a relationship with her.

The trial was told there was “banter” about both having “slept with the same woman”.

The men were getting “slagged” - but it was described as “all good fun”.

Mr McDade said he then remembered Miss Gillespie “stirring things up” between himself and Munro.

The 31-year-old walked out before being called by an “angry” Munro.

This led to Mr McDade then getting in touch with his uncle John Smith.

But, the court heard Munro assured Mr McDade all he wanted to was “shake his hand”.

Mr McDade was later at his home in Stevenston with his uncle when Miss Gillespie showed up in her purple Ford Fiesta.

He recalled her “shouting” at him before a Honda car “screeched” up to the house.

Mr McDade said an attacker got out armed with a “machete sword” that had a 15-inch blade.

The witness went on: “He just came towards me as fast as he could. We had no chance.

“He hit me with the sword, I turned away and he swung it in the direction of my uncle John.

“He had swung it towards my head, but it did not fully connect as I half blocked him.

“I stumbled back...a bit dazed.”

It was claimed Mr Smith was also struck. Both uncle and nephew were said to have been bloodied and injured.

Mr McDade: “I had heard him (his uncle) shouting: 'whoa' - that will live with me forever.”

The men got away into the house before the attacker left the scene.

Mr McDade: “I called an ambulance – I was holding my Uncle John's hand. 

I think he lost consciousness for a matter of seconds. It was absolutely mayhem after that.”

Mr Smith later died having never recovered.

A previous trial earlier this year was halted when Miss Gillespie – a prosecution witness – told jurors at the time she was not fit to give evidence.

The mum was not called at this latest case.

Munro, of Drumoyne, Glasgow, had denied the crimes.

Sentencing, Judge Sean Murphy QC said Munro was still guilty of “a significant level of violence” that was “out of all proportion” to anything previously occurred.

Allan Robertson had also been accused of the same charges, but the allegations were thrown out during the trial.