Coleen Rooney, wife of former England football captain Wayne, has emerged victorious in her high-profile libel case with the spouse of another footballer after a High Court judge agreed that Rebekah Vardy had leaked stories about her to the press.
- Rebekah Vardy had sued Coleen Rooney for a now-famous Instagram post accusing her of leaking private stories to the tabloids
- A judge found that Ms Rooney’s allegations were “substantially true”
- During the trial, it was revealed that a key piece of evidence — a mobile phone containing incriminating texts — was thrown into the North Sea
In a case that has gripped the public with its mix of glamour, sport and amateur sleuthing, the judge backed Ms Rooney’s public assertion that Ms Vardy had spilled private details about her to The Sun tabloid.
Ms Vardy said she was “devastated” by the ruling, saying “this is something I cannot accept.”.
The intrigue began almost three years ago when Ms Rooney grew suspicious about stories of her private life appearing in The Sun, and turned detective to try to find the culprit.
She said she blocked everyone from viewing her Instagram account except one person and then posted a series of false stories to see whether they leaked out, which they did.
Rooney wrote on her social media accounts that only one person had viewed the false stories, concluding with the dramatic revelation: “It’s … Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Ms Vardy, 40, sued Ms Rooney, with the feud dubbed the “WAGatha Christie” case: a composite of the “WAG” moniker given to a group of footballers’ wives and girlfriends with the renowned author of detective novels, in honor of Ms Rooney’s sleuthing.
The judge, Justice Karen Steyn, said Ms Rooney proved her allegation was “substantially true”. She concluded that Ms Vardy knew and condoned details being leaked to The Sun by her agent Caroline Watt.
“It was not a case I ever sought or wanted,” Ms. Rooney said in a statement.
“I never believed it should have gone to court at such expense … when the money could have been far better spent helping others.”
Any decision about who pays the legal fees will be settled at a future hearing. British media have speculated the trial cost millions of pounds.
“Although I bear Mrs Vardy no ill-will, today’s judgment makes clear that I was right in what I said in my posts of October 2019,” Ms Rooney said.
Ms Vardy said she was “extremely sad and disappointed at the decision”.
“It is not the result that I had expected, nor believe was just. I brought this action to vindicate my reputation and am devastated by the judge’s finding,” she said in a statement.
“[The judge] got it wrong and this is something I cannot accept.”
The phone at the bottom of the sea
During the trial in May, the court was shown message exchanges between Ms Vardy and Ms Watt, which included derogatory remarks about Ms Rooney and talk of leaking stories.
Ms Rooney’s lawyer said Ms Vardy deleted other media files and messages.
Ms Watt’s phone ended up at the bottom of the North Sea after she said she accidentally dropped it over the side of a boat.
“It is likely that Ms Vardy deliberately deleted her WhatsApp chat with Ms Watt, and that Ms Watt deliberately dropped her phone in the sea,” Justice Steyn said.
The judge found Ms Rooney to be honest, but said some of Ms Vardy’s testimony was not credible and there had been “a degree of self-deception on her part regarding the extent to which she was involved”.
The courtroom drama has attracted a similar level of public attention to any of their famous husbands’ football games.
Wayne Rooney holds the record for the most international goals for England, while Ms Vardy’s husband Jamie has been one of the top scorers in the English Premier League in recent years, also playing and scoring for the national side.
Both women are well-known in their own right — Coleen Rooney, 36, has 1.2 million followers on Twitter and almost 925,000 on Instagram — and the libel case lifted the lid on their glittering lifestyles, and less flattering aspects such as the Rooneys’ marriage troubles.
Ms Vardy said her family had received abuse and threats as a result of Ms Rooney’s public accusation and Justice Steyn agreed it was not in the public interest for the disclosure to have been made by Ms Rooney without giving Ms Vardy the chance to respond first.
“Some members of the public have responded to the Reveal Post by subjecting Ms Vardy to vile abuse, including messages wishing her, her family, and even her [then unborn] baby, ill in the most awful terms,” Justice Steyn said.
“Nothing of which Ms Vardy has been accused, nor any of the findings in this judgment, provide any justification or excuse for subjecting her or her family, or any other person involved in this case, to such vitriol.”