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JK Rowling ‘generous but unapproachable’, says former personal assistant

The author is seeking damages in a civil case against Amanda Donaldson whwas suspended and later dismissed in 2017 over alleged unauthorised spending.

JK Rowling was a generous but unapproachable boss, according to a former personal assistant in court accused of fraudulently using the author’s credit card for spending sprees.

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 almost £24,000.

The author is seeking damages in a civil case brought under her married name Joanne Murray, and alleges Ms Donaldson made transactions including £3,629 in retailer Molton Brown, £2,139 in card shop Paper Tiger and more than £1,800 in Starbucks and Costa coffee shops on a company credit card without authorisation.

Giving evidence at Airdrie Sheriff Court, Ms Donaldson said the author “could be really generous” and bought her a replacement pushchair when her child’s original was damaged.

But she claimed she was never given specific instructions for the use of the company credit card.

Ms Donaldson said Ms Rowling was often “busy writing and you had to respect that”.

She added: “Approachable isn’t something I would say.

“People in the office would sometimes ask if she was in a good mood, in a terrified way.”

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Ms Donaldson said Ms Rowling was often ‘busy writing and you had to respect that’ (Ian West/PA)

The PA said her boss had asked her to buy cards and gift wrapping that she got in Paper Tiger and claimed thousands of pounds spent on cakes and coffees were for business meetings and staff birthdays.

Ms Donaldson said the purchases in Molton Brown were for the office while spending in Jo Malone was at the request of Ms Rowling.

The defendant said she was told not to disturb the author when she was busy so had to make her own spending decisions.

“It was my understanding I would make the decision and would tell her after what I had done. I was never told otherwise,” Ms Donaldson said.

Questioned on how she responded to the fraud allegations, the 35-year-old said: “I really respected my role and would never have dreamed of doing anything like that.

“I’m quite offended and hurt (by the accusation).”

Ms Donaldson was later asked by her lawyer Allana Turley: “As far as you were aware what you were doing with the card you were allowed to do?”

The PA said: “That’s correct.”

In previous evidence, JK Rowling’s husband Dr Neil Murray described Ms Donaldson as a “liar” and accused her of stealing Harry Potter merchandise stored in the office to be sent to sick children.

The court heard a former boyfriend of Ms Donaldson had recently returned a box of Harry Potter goods to the office.

She said she corresponded with one ill child regularly and would send authorised gifts.

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In previous evidence, JK Rowling’s husband Dr Neil Murray described Ms Donaldson as a ‘liar’ (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Asked if she ever took merchandise from the office for herself or her family, Ms Donaldson said: “No. I wasn’t a fan, to be honest, of Harry Potter merchandise.”

The 35-year-old also denied she had falsified an email from Castle Terrace restaurant in Edinburgh.

The defendant said she had paid a £400 deposit for a Christmas lunch but the cash was not deducted from the final bill and the restaurant told Dr Murray it does not ask for deposits.

Asked why the restaurant stated no cash deposit was taken, the PA told the court: “I don’t know.”

Ending her evidence, Ms Donaldson was asked if she thought she did a good job.

She said: “I do. I asked frequently (how I was doing), it was important to me.

“I believe I did the best for the business and Mrs Murray.”

The civil case before Sheriff Derek O’Carroll continues.

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