Barton, Fiona and Lesley Yarranton. "Fear Stalks the Hogwarts Express: 24-hour bodyguards for Harry Potter author as obsessive fan sends gifts and love notes," Mail on Sunday, 9 July 2000

THE creator of publishing phenomenon Harry Potter is being protected 24 hours a day from a male stalker who has showered her with love letters and been seen standing outside her home.

Two female bodyguards have been assigned to JK Rowling while she promotes her fourth Harry Potter book which began shattering publishing records from the moment it was released at midnight on Friday.

The fan, understood to be a Scottish teacher in his 30s, has not made any specific threats to the millionaire author. But his obsessive behaviour has alarmed her advisers, and private security personnel will accompany the 34-year-old writer on her four-day round- Britain tour in a steam train.

Ms Rowling looked tired and anxious as she set off from London on the Hogwarts Express named after the special train which takes trainee wizard Harry on his adventures and which, as in the books, departed from Platform 9 3 /4 at Kings Cross.

It should have been a triumphal departure. The first British and US print run of 5.3 million copies of Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire has already taken 5 million in advance orders and the Amazon Internet bookselling site totted up 370,000 sales yesterday more than six times the record set in March by John Grisham's The Brethren.

Ms Rowling, a single mother with an eight-year-old daughter, who was penniless three years ago, can expect to earn 60 million from the new book on top of royalties from the 30 million sales of the first three, which have been translated into 31 languages.

But with the fame and fortune has come a sense of fear about the author's safety.

At Kings Cross, and then at stops at Didcot in Oxfordshire and Kidderminster in Worcestershire, one guard stayed close by Ms Rowling's side and another scanned the waiting crowds. It will be the same at Manchester and York today and until the tour ends in Perth. The two bodyguards, both wearing standard bullet-proof vests, will take turns to guard the author as the train stops each night in sidings.

Ms Rowling arrived to meet her fans at Kings Cross yesterday in a light blue Ford Anglia which was driven on to the platform to allow the children a chance to see the car featured in the books.

She was aware people had been queuing at bookstores all over the country which opened at midnight to begin selling and laying on snacks and drinks for tired young customers.

'This is all a bit of a shock and I'm amazed think of a stronger word and double it,' she said. 'I thought about three people would like the books, including my sister and possibly my daughter. I never dreamed of this.' But a glimpse of a possible dark side to the dream came when she walked by the barriers allowing the hundreds of children and Press photographers to take pictures.

The scrum reached a frenzy and one enthusiastic father pushed forward with his young daughter knocking a Press photographer who later claimed he was punched.

The incident blew up into an angry shouting match before the bodyguard stepped forward to tell the men to calm down and called the police over to remove the man whose daughter was now sobbing.

The author, in a purple cardigan, pat-

terned skirt and sparkly pink shoes, looked nervous and drawn. She described the pandemonium surrounding the publication as 'complete madness'.

Her bodyguard, wearing a discreet ear-piece and never more than a few feet behind her, once again glanced around the sea of faces.

Then her eyes flickered to the windows and ceiling about the platform a final safety check before the author finally boarded the Hogwarts Express.

A spokesman for her publishers, Bloomsbury, denied they were reacting to any specific threat but admitted: 'We are having good security at all the events. These people are looking after her while she is on tour.' A British Transport Police spokesman said there were two incidents at Kings Cross, when a steam train buff went into the secure area for a closer look at the train and when a woman, invited by the train crew, climbed aboard. Both were asked to leave and there were no arrests. But her fans aren't sure it's magic. . .

Theo Stanton, 6

IT'S too big. I liked the others better because they were smaller. I dont think I will ever finish this one, even if I read it for all my life. I didn't understand the first chapter in the Riddle house but I thought it was scary at the end when the old man dies. It is boring when he isn't at Hog warts beca use he can t do magic when in the real world. The first two were good because he flew in a car and on Buck beak the Hippogrif f. In this one he just flies on his broomstick. I didnt manage to read very much because it was a bit boring.

Serena Dhaliwal, 7

THE first three are better because the stories are easy to understand. This one is really weird to beg in with. The end of Chapter One is exciting but I didnt like all the killing. The next chapter is a bit confusing, there is lots going on but no real story. The characters are still really funny - my mum think s I am like Hermione because I am bossy and I work hard. I always hate Malfoy and he is especially horrible in this one . I wanted to hit him.

There is so much to imagine though, I found it difficult to understand. I wish there were pictures.

Natasha Buckingham, 9

I WASN'T sure I was going to like this one at the beginning because Chapter One is so weird, I didn't really understand it until much later in the story but then it got good again. Harrys first task is to take a g olden egg from a dragon. I knew he would be OK but I was a bit nervous for him. He is a bit more grown- up in this one - you can tell by the way he talks. Also, he is more sensible . It is harder to read than the first three because it is so long. It look s like two book s crushed into one. I was in a rush and found myself missing bits.

Andrew Forbes, 11

THE beginning was really weird and the second chapter was a bit boring. Nothing happened until the Quidditch World Cup . Ireland win , which I was really pleased about because I liked their mascots, which were leprechauns, more than the Bulgarian mascots, which were beautiful women.

The match w as really exciting, I couldn't put my book down - Quidditch sounds much better than football. Then nothing happens for ages. I don't think the book needed't be so long, she could have cut all the boring bits in between the action.

Lucy Barton, 14

The first Harry Potter book was the best. It went into such vivid detail, I really wanted to go to Kings Cross and find Platform 9 3/4 . The first book was the base, the second built the characters and the third gave the back ground. So I was excited about the fourth book. Unfortunately, there were too many subplots - like Harry falling in love and the House Elves - and they took away from the main Voldemort plot. I enjoyed reading The Goblet Of Fire, but Harry Potter And The Philosophers Stone is still my favourite.