Harry Potter author Jk Rowling reportedly repaid a $7,200 (GBP4,000) loan, by giving an old friend her GBP360,000 (GBP200,000) apartment.

Neighbour FIONA WILSON is thought to be the mystery friend who loaned Rowling the lump sum when she was a struggling single mother to daughter JESSICA - surviving on just $126 (GBP70) a week.

Rowling recalls, "I broke down and cried when my friend offered it to me. I was living on virtually nothing. At the time it was like half a million pounds to me. It was this enormous sum of money.

"I think we both thought I would never be able to pay it back. My friend was saying in effect, 'Here is a gift to help you.'"

At the time Rowling was living in a bedsit, trying to balance single motherhood, a teacher training course and writing the first Harry Potter book HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE.

After the success of her first novel in 1997, Rowling was able to move into a two-bedroom home in Edinburgh, Scotland, which at the time cost $113,400 (GBP63,000).

After earning millions from the follow-up books and the film adaptations of the Harry Potter stories, Rowling moved out of the flat into a bigger home - and has allegedly given it to Wilson as repayment for the loan.

22/03/2004 13:32