Two men charged after Harry Potter theft

Two men have been charged with firearms offences and handling stolen materials after a dramatic operation to recover stolen copies of the latest, as-yet-unpublished Harry Potter book.

Two copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, one of the most eagerly anticipated publications of recent years, were offered to tabloid newspapers at a pre-arranged meeting in Kettering, Northamptonshire.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire police said two men, aged 19 and 37, had been arrested. Both copies of the book were recovered. The incident prompted the author, JK Rowling, to obtain an injunction banning the men from leaking details of the book, due to be published on 16 July. Spokesmen for The Sun and the Daily Mirror said they had been contacted by a man claiming to have copies. Both newspapers said they planned to meet him to make sure that the books were returned to the publisher.

The novel has already caused controversy after heavy betting on the identity of a major character supposedly killed off in it. Bookmakers suspended betting last month amid fears that the manuscript had been leaked after thousands of pounds were laid on the Hogwarts head teacher, Professor Dumbledore.