Troubled actor Robert Blake has been given an unlikely boost in his hopes of avoiding a murder rap - his bodyguard has been diagnosed with deadly skin cancer.

Prosecutors were hoping to persuade bodyguard EARL CALDWELL to testify against Blake in October (03) when the two men return to court for the trial for the murder of the actor's wife Bonny Lee Bakley.

But now the actor's defence has been boosted by Caldwell's bad news - because it means he's unlikely to do a deal with the prosecutors in the interests of his health.

Caldwell's condition could mean a postponement of the trial.

Blake's attorney THOMAS MESEREAU says, "We're sorry to learn of his condition."

01/06/2003 21:00