FOUR men accused of conspiring to murder a dad-of-two in a shooting at his home have been found not guilty.

At Bolton Crown Court a jury of eight women and four men deliberated for three days before unanimously clearing Steven O’Donnell, Dominic Burke, Matthew Moss and Anthony Ward of conspiracy to murder John Louden.

Mr Louden, aged 50, was shot in the stomach outside the bedroom at his Glebelands Road, Prestwich, home by armed intruders who burst into his detached house on the evening of November 27 last year.

O’Donnell, aged 24, of Carr Avenue, Prestwich, and Burke, aged 21, of Whinfell Drive, Middleton, had already admitted conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary while Burke also pleaded guilty to intentionally causing grievous bodily harm and possessing a firearm.

Anthony Ward, aged 29, of Braithwaite Road, Middleton, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary.

They were remanded in custody and will be sentenced on Tuesday next week.

Moss, aged 28, of Rydal Avenue, Chadderton, was found not guilty of all charges and freed from the dock.aggravated burglary.

During the six week trial the court heard how the force of the shotgun blast propelled Mr Louden back into his bedroom, where he quickly shut and locked the door before crawling onto his bed, “pushing everything back in” and phoning the emergency services.

The prosecution alleged that O’Donnell was the driving force behind a conspiracy to kill Mr Louden and the only one of the defendants who knew the victim. Mr Louden’s daughters were at school with O’Donnell’s sister.

They claimed it was Burke and Ward who broke into the house with a third man, with Ward carrying a machete. Burke carried a sawn off shotgun which he fired at Mr Louden and left him with severe injuries.

But the defendants denied conspiring to murder Mr Louden claiming it was a burglary gone wrong as they believed there was a cannabis farm at the property which they planned to steal.

No cannabis farm was at the house, although there were small amounts of the drug hidden at the property which Mr Louden had for personal use.

Barristers for the defendants stressed that the prosecution have been unable to establish any motive for wanting to kill Mr Louden.

“The elephant in the room is motive. Why would these people who didn’t know each other get together to kill Mr Louden?” said John Harrison QC, defending O'Donnell.

Following the verdicts, the Honorary Recorder of Bolton Judge Timothy Clayson, told the jury: "Thank you very much for all the hard work and commitment you have shown during this substantial case. This, of course, was a hugely serious case."