Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney’s High Court libel battle will shortly draw to a close as lawyers for each of the women set out their cases.
Mrs Rooney, 36, was dubbed “Wagatha Christie” when she publicly claimed an account behind three fake stories she had posted on her personal Instagram account and which appeared in The Sun newspaper belonged to Mrs Vardy, 40. Mrs Rooney, the wife of former England football captain Wayne Rooney, accused Mrs Vardy of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the press.
Mrs Vardy, who is married to Leicester striker Jamie Vardy, denies the accusation and is suing her fellow footballer’s wife for libel, while Mrs Rooney is defending the claim on the basis that her post was “substantially true”. Over six days in courtroom number 13 at the Royal Courts of Justice, the pair have each given evidence, as has Mr Rooney, also 36, who played for Everton and Manchester United and now manages Derby County.
Mrs Vardy’s barrister, Hugh Tomlinson QC, had previously told the court that she had “no choice” but to bring the legal action against Mrs Rooney so she could clear her name and “establish her innocence and vindicate her reputation”.
David Sherborne, representing Mrs Rooney, told Mrs Justice Steyn, the judge hearing the trial, the case is essentially a “detective story” and “like any good detective story, you never find a person standing over the body with a smoking gun”. He said there was “inference”, saying: “You do not have to be convinced beyond reasonable doubt, you just have to conclude that it is more likely than not that Mrs Vardy was responsible, either directly or through Ms (Caroline – Mrs Vardy’s friend and agent) Watt.”
Their lawyers will summarise the case in closing speeches today, following which the judge will reserve her ruling on the case to a later date. Mrs Rooney is defending the claim on the basis of truth and public interest.
The three fake Instagram posts at the centre of the ‘Wagatha Christie’ libel trial
Three “false” stories Coleen Rooney claims to have uploaded to her private Instagram account during a months-long “sting operation” are at the centre of her libel dispute with Rebekah Vardy. In her now famous October 2019 social media “reveal” post, Mrs Rooney claimed her fellow footballer’s wife’s account was the only one to see the posts and alleged that information from them was leaked to The Sun newspaper – something Mrs Vardy denies being responsible for.
Here the PA news agency takes a look at what has been heard in court about the social media posts:
The gender selection post
Mrs Rooney claims to have made this “sting operation” post about a so-called gender-selection treatment on April 8, 2019. The post featured a photograph of the back seat of an airplane overlaid with the text “Let’s go and see what this gender selection is all about”.
She alleges that the invented post was marked on Instagram as “seen” only by Mrs Vardy’s account, with her lawyers providing a screengrab to the High Court. In August that year, the Sun published an article claiming Mrs Rooney travelled to Mexico to look into the treatment.
The story, carrying journalist Andy Halls’s byline, is headlined “COL’S BABY GIRL BID Coleen Rooney travelled to Mexico to look into £8k ‘gender selection’ treatment in desperate bid to have baby girl”. The article, referring to “a source” and “pals”, alleged Mrs Rooney is “so desperate for her fifth baby to be a girl” that she wants to hear more about a process “in which doctors examine embryos in a lab before implanting only those of the desired gender back into the womb”.
TV decisions post
A private fabricated post about planning a return to TV was made on September 25, 2019, Mrs Rooney claims. She says it featured a “selfie” and the text “Up and out!! Easing my way back into work!! TV decisions today…. maybe it’s time for Australia” and claims it was seen only by Mrs Vardy’s account.
Three days later, a Sun article under Michael Hamilton’s byline was published under the headline “ROO-MBA Coleen Rooney in talks to join Strictly next year as she looks to revive TV career when Wayne returns to UK”. It quoted an anonymous source and claimed to exclusively reveal Mrs Rooney was “locked in talks with producers”, planned to “front a fashion programme” and “could well do” the Strictly Come Dancing TV show.
The court has been told Mr Hamilton has denied that Mrs Vardy or her agent Caroline Watt were the source of the article. Mrs Rooney’s lawyers have accepted that the post and article “do not match up entirely” but argue the timing was “very close” and it fuelled Mrs Rooney’s suspicions about the leaking of her information and therefore supports her defence that the sting operation was in the public interest.
The flooded basement post
Mrs Rooney says she shared false information about her basement being flooded on October 2, 2019 in another “sting operation” post. She again alleged to the High Court that the post was viewed only by Mrs Vardy’s Instagram account. Her lawyers have shared a screengrab of the post featuring a bottle of wine overlaid with the text: “needed after today… flood in the basement of our new house… when it all seemed to be going so well”.
On October 8, The Sun published a story, with Simon Boyle’s byline, headlined: “IN ROO-INS Wayne and Coleen Rooney’s £20million ‘Morrisons mansion’ flooded during Storm Lorenzo”. The article, quoting a “source close to the couple”, claimed to reveal that bad weather had “wreaked havoc” at the Cheshire property, with Mrs Rooney being “called in to find the cellar had been flooded”.
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