Forensic scientists are examining material linked to the murder of Raymond McCord in a move welcomed as a breakthrough by the dead man's family.
Mr McCord's father, Raymond Sr, said he hoped the progress would bring prosecutions after learning that the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) had submitted potential evidence to scientists.
The north Belfast victim, 22, was brutally murdered in Newtownabbey in November 1997, allegedly by the Ulster Volunteer Force, and his killers have yet to be brought to justice.
Police sources say the review by forensic experts is standard practice.
Mr McCord Sr met PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde recently and said: “I am hopeful this will lead to arrests. We are hopeful the stuff will be enough to allow police to bring charges.
“I know for certain that there's been a forensic breakthrough. This is the first breakthrough we have seen for eight and a half years.
“We have to give Hugh Orde credit for starting up this new team. I am confident that in the long term the individuals behind my son's murder will be charged.”
The HET was established last January with a £34m (€49.8m) budget to investigate 3,268 unsolved paramilitary-linked murders in the North.
Mr McCord Sr's claims that a Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch informant was involved in his son's murder are being investigated by Northern Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan.
The case was raised in the Dáil by Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte in October 2005.
Using parliamentary privilege from libel action he said the murder of the ex-RAF airman, 22, was carried out under the orders of Mount Vernon UVF figure Mark Haddock.
Mr Rabbitte called for an international public inquiry once the ombudsman's investigation is complete and claimed Haddock was not charged with the killing as he was an informer.