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Mystery witness stirs up Housewives trial

THE trial over Nicollette Sheridan's sacking from Desperate Housewives featured one last twist with the disclosure of a mystery witness who has indicated show bosses tried to cover up correspondence related to the actress.

A judge ordered the man to appear in court in Los Angeles today to determine whether he will become one of the final witnesses.

The man, who was identified as Michael Reinhart, left a message for Sheridan's lawyer on Sunday afternoon stating that he mistakenly received an email that suggested that messages related to Sheridan's departure from the hit TV series would be purged.

The man on the message said he did not want to become involved in the case, but by the day's end had become the latest intriguing thread in a trial that has featured a behind-the-scenes look at Desperate Housewives and conflicting testimony on whether Sheridan was hit by show creator Marc Cherry during a September 2008 dispute.

"There was a definite conspiracy to cover up the correspondence on email-wise in regards to Nicollette," the person is heard saying on the call, which was played in court outside the presence of the jury.

Adam Levin, a lawyer for Cherry and the ABC television network, dismissed the claims. He noted in court that he had not spoken with Mr Reinhart.

"Today's antics by the plaintiff, conjuring up mysterious emails, appears to be a last-ditch effort to save her case," Mr Levin said after yesterday's proceedings.

Closing arguments are likely to begin today as both sides call their final witnesses. Sheridan's lawyer Mark Baute, who received the message on Sunday, said he would like to call Mr Reinhart as a witness.

Sheridan (48) is suing Cherry and ABC for wrongful termination and battery and is seeking $6m (¤4.5m) in damages.

Numerous witnesses for the show's creator and network have told the court that the decision to kill off Sheridan's Edie Britt character was made in May 2008, four months before her altercation with Cherry on the set.