LATEST: Robert Blake withdrew $126,000 (GBP67,000) from two accounts months before his wife was killed - triggering a suspicious activity report from his bank, an official has testified.

Prosecutor SHELLIE SAMUELS suggested at the outset of the trial that the troubled actor may have made the withdrawals as part of a plot to hire someone to kill his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.

The cheques were cashed in mostly $5,000 (GBP2,650) increments between September 2000 and March 2001, HELGA SHATTUCK, a compliance specialist for CITY NATIONAL BANK, testified yesterday (14FEB05).

When the total reached $126,000, federal banking officials were notified of "suspicious activity".

Blake, 71, is charged with shooting Bakley, 44, in 2001, as she sat in a car parked near his favourite Los Angeles restaurant.

On cross-examination by the defence, Shattuck testified that Blake withdrew nearly $138,000 (GBP73,000) from an account between January 1999 to June 2000. She said these withdrawals did not trigger any reports of suspicious activity.

Shattuck told the court the bank handled accounts for many celebrities and that she is accustomed to seeing large withdrawals.

15/02/2005 03:08