Harry Potter and the gun

LONDON: The curious case of Harry Potter, the tabloid newspaper and the disappearing gun. Another dramatic chapter in the life of the world's most famous boy wizard unfolded on Friday when armed police were called to a reported shoot-out over an attempt to sell a stolen copy of the new J.K. Rowling novel.

The saga began on Friday morning when police in the county of Northamptonshire, England, received a call from a Sun reporter, telling them someone was offering the paper a stolen copy of the book, and that they had a gun. Police refused to reveal the sum of money involved.

As a result, firearms officers swarmed into Tresham Street, a small residential road in the town of Kettering, scouring the area for weapons. Two men were arrested on suspicion of theft and firearms offences.

``The street was completely sealed off for public safety,'' said a police spokeswoman. ``The two men, aged 37 and 19, are both from Kettering and have been taken to separate police stations in the county. Two books were recovered and they are currently being held as evidence.''

She added that no weapon had been found as yet, no one had reported any injuries and there were no independent witnesses to substantiate that any shooting had taken place.

A spokesman for the Sun said the paper had been approached by someone claiming to have a copy of `Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,' the latest book in Ms. Rowling's phenomenally successful series. ``A reporter and photographer from the Sun met with two men with the intention of obtaining the book so that it could be returned to the publisher and the police could be informed,'' he said.

The tabloid has been running a series of stories in the run-up to the book's publication on July 16. Most recently it alleged that punters in Bungay, Suffolk, one of several locations in which the book is being printed, had pulled off a ``sensational sting'' by finding out which major character was to be killed off and besieging bookmakers with bets.

Publishers Bloomsbury are taking no chances. One printing plant in east Germany has already been placed under strict security, with a team of 40 employed to stop the manuscript leaving the building. —

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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