JK Rowling’s ex-assistant saw employment as ‘blank cheque’, court told

A former personal assistant of JK Rowling who is accused of fraudulently using the author’s credit card saw her employment as almost a “blank cheque” for her benefit, a court has heard.

Amanda Donaldson, 35, was suspended and later dismissed in 2017 over alleged unauthorised spending and the taking of Harry Potter merchandise to a total value of £22,236.

The author is seeking damages in a civil case brought under her married name Joanne Murray.

She alleges Ms Donaldson made transactions including £3,179 in retailer Molton Brown, £2,139 in card shop Paper Tiger and more than £1,619 in Starbucks and Costa coffee shops on a company credit card without authorisation.

Amanda Donaldson
Amanda Donaldson

Ms Donaldson is also accused of fraudulently obtaining £7,742 of foreign currency, more than £1,500 in cash and Harry Potter merchandise worth £3,213.

She denies the claims against her.

Lawyers for both parties gave their final submissions at Airdrie Sheriff Court on Thursday after evidence in the case was heard in December.

Kirsteen MacDonald, representing Ms Rowling, referred to as the “pursuer”, said: “The evidence from the pursuer was that it became apparent that the defender saw her employment as almost a blank cheque with which she could benefit.

“It certainly follows in the evidence given by the pursuer to the effect that the defender simply saw her employment as an ability to benefit for herself at the expense of the pursuer.”

Ms Donaldson was originally accused of fraudulently spending a larger sum in Molton Brown, however it was accepted that some of the money may have been spent legitimately on soap.

But Ms MacDonald told the court £3,179 was “unauthorised and fraudulent” spending.

She said: “The decision of the defender to take over the role of purchasing Molton Brown, I would say was part of an overall fraudulent scheme.

“I would suggest that the defender saw an opportunity to exploit an area for her own benefit.

“The evidence of the pursuer was very much that this was not part of her role.”

The court also heard £922 was spent fraudulently at luxury candle and fragrance retailer Jo Malone.

It was originally alleged that £1,482 was spent there but it was accepted that two candles which cost around £280 each were purchased legitimately.

Ms Donaldson is also accused of making fraudulent purchases at other shops including Boots, Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and Bibi’s Bakery.

On the issue of foreign currency, the court heard US dollars, Norwegian kroner and euro ordered for foreign trips went missing.

It is also alleged Ms Donaldson fraudulently obtained Harry Potter merchandise which was later returned by her ex-partner.

The case, before Sheriff Derek O’Carroll, continues.