Morningside cat Maisie 'linked to £650,000 embezzlement'

THE publisher behind the long-running adventures of Maisie the Morningside cat appeared in court yesterday accused of embezzling £650,000.

Katrena Allan, who helped to launch writer Aileen Paterson's Maisie series under her Glowworm Books imprint, pleaded not guilty to the charge at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Ms Paterson, 72, claims she had lost up to 40,000 after the publishers were put into liquidation.

She alleges that 35,000 Maisie dolls and about 40,000 books have been caught up in the liquidation process.

The writer said that she was entitled to a percentage of the sale value of the goods.

Ms Paterson, who lives in the Abbeyhill area of Edinburgh, said: "The whole situation has left me absolutely scunnered. Authors do not earn as much as people think.

I have been involved in discussions with the liquidators," the author said.

Allan, 50, is accused of stealing the money from Bindery Machinery Services in Macmerry, East Lothian, where she was a director, with the role of financial secretary.

She is alleged to have made a series of false and unauthorised payments to her own firm, Glowworm Books, between 1999 and 2005.

Glowworm, whose authors included Ms Paterson, went into liquidation after Bindery machinery Services started proceedings against it.

Maisie was created after Mrs Paterson's 11-year-old son, Max, died of leukaemia in 1980. Working on the character saw the former art teacher at Craigroyston High School tackle her grief through drawing.

The title for the first Maisie book, Maisie Comes to Morningside, was inspired by the Chester Himes detective story, Cotton Comes to Harlem. She moved from Borders-based publishers Three Hills Books to the newly formed Amaising Publishing House, which was run by Scotprint boss Charlie Watt and Allan.

The firm later became Glowworm Books, which was run by Allan, and the contract between the pair later ran out in 2005.

Maisie is one of Scotland's most popular fictional characters, and in 2000 her adventures were adapted for children's television by ITV.

The veteran Scottish comedian Stanley Baxter came out of retirement to provide voices for the characters.

A spokesman for KPMG confirmed that they had been appointed as liquidators to Glowworm in June last year.

Allan was unavailable for comment yesterday.

She lives in Ecclesmachan, near Broxburn, West Lothian, and first appeared in court last year in connection with the alleged embezzlement.

But a number of legal delays caused by the complexities of the finances involved in the case have prevented it going to trial sooner.

The publisher was yesterday told to return to court in August to stand trial before a jury.

MUCH-LOVED CHARACTER

THE adventures of Maisie the Morningside cat have taken her from Glasgow to New York to Brazil and even climbing in the Himalayas.

The kilted kitten is heroine of more than 20 books. Maisie also has her own television programme and a line of soft toys sold everywhere from Jenners to Harrods.

The author, Aileen Paterson, has said she draws strongly on her childhood experiences for her Maisie books.

Ms Paterson was born in Burntisland, Fife, in 1934. She came to Edinburgh to study art and stayed on as a teacher. The series of books has now sold about one million copies.