THE man who was accused of murdering Michael Mearns in Greenock Cemetery has this afternoon walked from court a free man.

Scott Rooney, 20, had denied murdering Mr Mearns with a brick or similar implement on July 30 last year, and claimed he had found him dying.

At the High Court in Glasgow a jury found the case against him not proven after deliberating for three hours.

Members of his family sitting in the court sobbed with joy as the verdict was announced.

Rooney, from Greenock, said in evidence that he came upon a dying Mr Mearns lying slumped on the ground behind an electricity sub-station near the gates of the cemetery.

In evidence during his trial he said that on the night he was desperate for the toilet, and had told his friend Dean Footit he was going to do the toilet and walked towards the sub-station.

Mr Rooney said he saw Mr Mearns lying slumped on the ground covered in blood.

He said: “I walked towards the sub-station. My plan was to go to at the wall. I was just about to do the toilet when something caught my eye. I turned round and saw a man curled up with blood round his head.”

The court heard that after finding the body Mr Rooney and his friend Mr Footit phoned 999 and tried to get help from passers-by for Mr Mearns.

Mr Mearns, who was unconscious when he was taken to Inverclyde Royal Hospital, died the next day. The cause of death was a head injury.

Pathologists told the court that they thought Mr Mearns' head injury was caused by a blow, but added that they could not rule out a fall.

The jury heard that Mr Mearns, who had a drink problem, had a history of falls and had been admitted to the accident and emergency at Inverclyde Royal 18 times in the last 12 months of his life.

Mr Rooney said that by July 31, 2015 the incident was 'the talk of the town' and his friends were winding him up about it.

He added: “They were saying 'it was you that murdered him' and I said something stupid like 'aye it was me'.”

Mr Rooney was asked by his defence QC Brian McConnachie: “Why did you say: 'It was me,' or 'All right it was me that done it,'” and replied: “Just to get them off my back. They just wouldn't let it go.”

Prosecutors alleged that Mr Rooney walked towards the sub-station, came across Mr Mearns, argued with him, smashed him on the right side of his head with a brick or stone knocking him unconscious. The Crown said this all happened within 45 seconds.

Judge Lord Clark told Mr Rooney: “By the verdict of the jury you are free to go.”