JK Rowling’s one-time assistant took Harry Potter gear meant for “sick and dying children”, the author’s husband has told Airdrie Sheriff Court.

Dr Neil Murray was giving evidence at the trial of Amanda Donaldson, who is accused of taking boy wizard merchandise that had been put aside for young fans and was worth around £24,000.

She is also accused of fraudulently using the author’s credit card to fund her own personal spending sprees.

This is said to include splurging more than £3600 on toiletries in Molton Brown, in excess of £2100 in Edinburgh card shop Paper Tiger and over £1800 at coffee chains Starbucks and Costa.

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The 35-year-old, from Coatbridge, in North Lanarkshire, denies the allegations.

Murray told the court that Donaldson had been employed to organise novelist Rowling’s business and professional matters.

Now the multi-millionaire is seeking damages.

When asked by the author’s lawyer why Rowling – one of the country’s richest people with an estimated wealth of £700 million – is pursuing an action over a relatively small amount of money, 47-year-old Murray said: “I would say there is a matter of principle here.”

He went on: “I firmly believe Amanda has stolen a substantial amount of money and Harry Potter merchandise in the office that was for sick and dying children.

“ I feel personally that we have a duty to protect any future employer. If this was a small business, she could have ruined it.”

The court heard that an accountant raised concerns with Murray – a co-manager of Rowling’s business affairs – over the personal assistant’s spending between 2014 and 2017.

He said the biggest concern was over cash withdrawals of £400 and £250 in December 2016 that Donaldson claimed were for a Christmas lunch deposit at Castle Terrace restaurant in Edinburgh.

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Chartered accountant Steven Simou told the court he had contacted the restaurant and found no deposit had been requested or taken off the final bill.

In his evidence, Murray said an email Donaldson claimed to have received from the restaurant confirming the deposit had been faked by the former PA.

He said: “The restaurant confirmed no deposit was taken and no email was sent. I believe she fraudulently created that email in order to justify that spend.”

Murray further told the court he had challenged Donaldson over the money in “an astonishing encounter”.

He said: “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.

The National:

“She shut down, was calm and basically lied. At the end of the encounter I was really taken at how good a liar she was.”

The court heard that a small staff of four full-time and two part-time workers shared an office with Donaldson in Edinburgh.

Asked by Rowling’s solicitor Kathleen MacDonald if there was any reason for the £3629 spend at Molton Brown, Murray replied: “Well not for the office, it doesn’t make sense.

“I think the vast majority was purchased by Amanda for Amanda.”

Dr Murray said there was “no question” about what the credit card was meant to be used for, stating: “This was a business card to facilitate my wife’s business life.”

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 out the business credit card. I was told she said ‘don’t worry, Neil doesn’t check this card’.”

However, Donaldson’s lawyer accused Murray of carrying out a “character assassination” on her client.

The witness said he had “seen two sides” to Donaldson, before and after raising the disciplinary matter over the money.

Earlier, accountant Simou told the civil case he had analysed the credit card account after a concern was raised, and believed it to be fraudulent activity.

He said: “I was just quite shocked to see so many expenses there clearly not of a business nature.”

He went on: “Certain expenses stood out more than others – Costa, Starbucks, bakeries, Boots and other high street shops you wouldn’t normally associate with a business spend.”

Under cross-examination by Donaldson’s lawyer, Simou said he did not know what instructions Donaldson had been given for using the card.

The civil case before Sheriff Derek O’Carroll continues.