North Belfast loyalist William "Mo" Courtney has been acquitted of murdering a former associate of UDA leader Johnny Adair.
Willliam "Mo" Courtney was acquitted of murder
Belfast Crown Court judge Mr Justice McLaughlin said he could not convict him of the 2003 murder of Alan "Bucky" McCullough or UFF and UDA membership.
He said there was "inherent weakness" in the evidence given by the McCullough family and of witness A.
Mr Courtney, of Fernhill Heights, was tried under the Diplock no-jury system.
"I could not properly convict the accused of the murder of Alan McCullough," the judge said.
Mr Justice McLaughlin added: "In addition the prosecution case is highly deficient in establishing that the defendant was part of a common design to kill the deceased."
However, following recent legislation the prosecution have a right to appeal the judge's decision.
The body of Alan McCullough was found in a shallow grave
Following the acquittal of the 43-year-old, prosecuting QC Geoffrey Millar asked for the case to be adjourned to Thursday in order to give him time to consult with the Director of the Public Prosecution Service.
Describing the adjournment application as "entirely appropriate", Mr Justice McLaughlin granted the application as "it's not something that should be decided in a matter of minutes".
The body of Mr McCullough, 21, was found in a shallow grave on the outskirts of north Belfast. He had been shot.
An earlier hearing had been told that Mr McCullough had been a member of the so-called "C company" of the UDA - headed by Adair.
"C company" had been expelled from the UDA in 2002, and a number of its members, including the victim, had been ordered out of Northern Ireland by UDA leaders.
Mr McCullough returned to Northern Ireland in April 2003 and his body was found on 5 June.