Published Wednesday, 05 December 2012
The charge was withdrawn. (© UTV)
Mark Haddock had been formally accused of killing John Harbinson in Belfast in 1997.
But more than three years after the charge was brought, a judge was told on Wednesday of the new development.
It was stressed that the move, which is linked to the time the case has taken, was being made on a without prejudice basis.
Police will still be able to continue their inquiries and submit a file to the Public Prosecution Service for consideration.
A PPS lawyer told Belfast Magistrates' Court: "My application is to withdraw the charge.
"The case is to proceed by way of a report to the PPS."
He added: "It looks like the investigation is still going to take considerably more time."
Haddock, 43, and formerly from the Mount Vernon area of north Belfast, did not appear in court for the brief hearing.
Reporting restrictions prevent the publication of any details about his current whereabouts.
He was charged with murdering Mr Harbinson following a reinvestigation by the Historical Enquiries Team, a specialist police unit set up to probe killings from the Troubles.
The victim, a 39-year-old Protestant, was found dead in May 1997. He had been handcuffed and beaten by a Ulster Volunteer Force gang on the Mount Vernon estate.
Earlier this year Haddock was one of nine men acquitted of the separate murder of Ulster Defence Association leader Tommy English in October 2000.
That not guilty verdict was returned following a so-called supergrass trial involving the evidence of brothers Robert and Ian Stewart.
Haddock has himself survived an assassination attempt carried out by former associations.
He was shot a number of times and badly injured in the gun attack in Newtownabbey, just outside north Belfast, in May 2006.
© UTV News