Thousands of copies of the eagerly awaited new Harry Potter (news - web sites) book, worth about $1.7 million, were stolen from a warehouse in the north of England over the weekend, police said Tuesday.
The copies of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth in J.K. Rowling (news - web sites)'s series on the boy wizard, were taken in a late-night heist on Merseyside Sunday.
Police said they are checking a white articulated trailer truck found about 20 miles from the warehouse for forensic evidence.
They cautioned readers not to touch the books before their public release at midnight Friday.
"We want to warn members of the public that if they handle the book between now and Saturday in any way other than legitimately, they may face criminal charges," a spokeswoman said.
Rowling's four books, the first of which was written as a penniless single mother in Edinburgh, have sold almost 200 million copies in 55 languages