AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd murder plot charge dropped
The Australian drummer of hard rock group AC/DC, Phil Rudd, has had a charge of attempting to arrange a murder dropped in New Zealand.
He will still face charges of drugs possession and making threats to kill.
The U-turn by authorities, announced less than 24 hours after Mr Rudd appeared in court, was because of a lack of evidence, his lawyer said.
Paul Mabey said the charge should never have been laid, and that his client was considering "any possible remedies".
He added that Mr Rudd had suffered "incalculable" damage from the publicity surrounding the allegation and its sensational reporting.
Mr Mabey described the drug charges as "minor" offences and said the musician would defend the charge of making threats to kill, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.
AC/DC had earlier issued a statement saying its planned tour would not be affected by news of the charges.
The band is one of the highest grossing music acts of all time.
'Family man, not hit man'
On Thursday, the 60-year-old musician appeared in court after a police raid on his waterfront house in Tauranga, on New Zealand's North Island. He was released on bail and told he must not contact anyone involved in the alleged murder plot.
But on Friday, prosecuting lawyer Greg Hollister-Jones said his office had reviewed the case and found there was "insufficient evidence to proceed with the charge of attempting to procure murder".
The initial charge of attempting to procure murder was made by police, but after Mr Rudd's court appearance, Crown prosecutors took on the case.
Local media reports said at the time that the alleged plot targeted two men. The judge ruled that their names as well as that of the alleged hit-man could not be revealed.
The man allegedly named in court papers as the "intended hitman" told The New Zealand Herald newspaper he believed the matter had been blown out of proportion.
Describing himself as a "family man", not a hitman, he said the charges against Mr Rudd - whom he considered a friend - were simply "hot air". However, the man refused to blame police, who he said were just doing their job.
The BBC's Jon Donnison in Sydney says the episode will prove embarrassing for the New Zealand police.
Mr Rudd, who has lived in New Zealand for over two decades, is next due in court on 27 November. AC/DC launches its new album on 2 December.
The drummer was kicked out of the band in 1983 and rejoined in 1994.
But his absence from a recent photo of band members prompted online speculation about whether he was still in the band.
- One of Australia's biggest music exports and among the highest grossing music acts of all time.
- Known for top hits such as Highway to Hell, You Shook Me All Night Long, Back in Black, Hell's Bells and Dirty Deeds Done Cheap.
- The band was founded by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young in 1973, who named it after the abbreviation for "alternating current direct current" - hence the lightning bolt on their logo.
- Angus, the lead guitarist, is known for his schoolboy outfits which he still wears for performances.
- The Young brothers were the only original members in the band for decades until Malcolm's departure in 2014 after he was diagnosed with dementia.
- More than a dozen people have been part of the band over the years, including late singer Bon Scott who died of alcohol poisoning in 1980.
- The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.