A former personal assistant of JK Rowling who is accused of fraudulently using the author’s credit card to go on spending sprees was a “good liar”, Rowling’s husband has told a court.
Dr Neil Murray said Amanda Donaldson was employed to organise his wife’s business and professional matters.
He said she was suspended and later dismissed in 2017 over alleged unauthorised spending that included £3,629 in cosmetics store Molton Brown, £2,139 in stationery shop Paper Tiger, and more than £1,800 in Starbucks and Costa.
The civil case at Airdrie sheriff court heard that Murray was a co-manager of his wife’s business affairs, and an accountant raised concerns with him over Donaldson’s spending.
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.
Chartered accounted Steven Simou earlier told the court he had contacted the restaurant and found no deposit had been requested or taken off the final bill. Donaldson denies the claims against her.
Murray told the court he challenged Donaldson 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.
“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 author’s husband said there was a small staff of four full-time and two part-time workers who shared an office with Donaldson in Edinburgh.
Asked by JK Rowling’s solicitor Kathleen MacDonald if there was any reason for the £3,629 spend at Molton Brown, Dr Murray said: “Well not for the office, it doesn’t make sense. I think the vast majority was purchased by Amanda for Amanda.”
Murray said there was no question about what the credit card was meant to be used for.
“This was a business card to facilitate my wife’s business life,” he told the court.
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’.”
Simou earlier told the court it was found that a safe Donaldson had access to was missing more than £7,700 after she was suspended.
The accountant had analysed the credit card account after a concern was raised by another member of staff.
He told JK Rowling’s solicitor Kathleen MacDonald he believed it was fraudulent activity.
He said: “I was just quite shocked to see so many expenses there, clearly not of a business nature.”
He added: “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.”
Cross-examined by Donaldson’s lawyer, Simou said he did not know what instructions she had been given for using the card.
The civil case before Sheriff Derek O’Carroll continues.