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JK Rowling's husband brands former PA a 'good liar' amid claims she owes the Harry Potter author £23,000

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 06/12/2018 Auslan Cramb
a man wearing a suit and tie: Dr Neil Murray gave evidence against his wife's PA © PA Dr Neil Murray gave evidence against his wife's PA

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JK Rowling’s husband has described his wife's former PA as a “good liar” amid claims she used a company credit card on spending sprees and took Harry Potter toys meant for dying children.

Ms Rowling claims Amanda Donaldson, 35, wrongly benefited to the tune of £23,696 by using the card and taking merchandise. She is suing her former PA under her married name, Joanne Murray.

Dr Neil Murray, the author’s husband, said Ms Donaldson was employed to organise his wife's business and professional matters.

The former employee, from Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, denies the allegations and claims Ms Rowling has "not suffered any loss and is not entitled to damages”.

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Dr Murray told Airdrie Sheriff Court that Ms Donaldson was suspended and later dismissed in 2017 over alleged unauthorised spending that included £3,629 in the cosmetics store Molton Brown, £2,139 in the stationery shop Paper Tiger and more than £1,800 in Starbucks and Costa.

The civil case heard that he was co-manager of his wife's business affairs and that an accountant raised concerns with him over Ms Donaldson's spending between 2014 and 2017.

Dr Murray said: "I believe my wife sat down with Amanda and explained exactly what the business card was to be used for.

“In these statements there are dozens if not hundreds of entries where Amanda has used the card to purchase things for herself.”

a man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Amanda Donaldson denies the allegations © PA Amanda Donaldson denies the allegations He added: "For me there is the matter of principle here. I firmly believe she has stolen a substantial amount of money and a substantial amount of Harry Potter merchandise from the office which was to be given to sick and dying children.

“She has consistently denied it throughout the whole disciplinary process which led to her dismissal and continues to deny it. We have a duty to bring this to some sort of conclusion, if that was a small business she could destroy that small business.”

He said the biggest concern was over alleged cash withdrawals of £400 and £250 in December 2016 that Ms Donaldson claimed were for a Christmas lunch deposit.

He also said he challenged Ms Donaldson in "an astonishing encounter", adding: “Amanda had always adopted a lively, slightly bubbly, a bit scatty, demeanour.

"I thought she might be emotional or run about the office looking for bits of paper, but what I found was a completely different personality. She shut down, was calm and basically lied.

J. K. Rowling holding a sign: JK Rowling was said to have explained how the credit card should be used © Getty JK Rowling was said to have explained how the credit card should be used “I have personal experience of lying, I ran a methadone clinic and usually there are giveaway signs but she remained calm, her pupils didn’t close and her cheeks didn’t flush, I was completely taken aback.”

Dr Murray said there was a small staff of four full-time and two part-time workers who shared an office with Ms Donaldson in Edinburgh.

Asked by his wife’s solicitor, Kathleen MacDonald, if there was any reason for the £3,629 spend at Molton Brown, he replied: "Well, not for the office, it doesn't make sense. I think the vast majority was purchased by Amanda for Amanda."

He added: “I heard from office staff there was an occasion Amanda was out socially with staff and they bought pizza. Amanda offered to pay for the group and took it out of the business credit card. I was told she said, 'Don't worry, Neil doesn't check this card'."

Steven Simou, an accountant, told the court that a safe Ms Donaldson had access to was missing more than £7,700 after she was suspended. He analysed the credit card account after concerns were raised by another member of staff.

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He told Ms MacDonald: “I was just quite shocked to see so many expenses there, clearly not of a business nature."

The Harry Potter author alleges that Ms Donaldson also used her position to take merchandise worth hundreds of pounds, including a Motorised Hogwarts Express, a Harry Potter Wizard Collection and a Harry Potter Tales of Beedle The Bard Set.

The case continues.

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