Rooney/Vardy defamation battle ‘extraordinary’, High Court told

Rooney’s barrister says loss of ‘crucial’ documents by Vardy was deliberate

Coleen Rooney’s barrister has told the High Court the libel claim brought against her by Rebekah Vardy is “extraordinary”.

In a viral social media post in October 2019, Ms Rooney (36) said she had carried out a “sting operation” and accused Ms Vardy (40) of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the press.

The wife of former England star Wayne Rooney was dubbed “Wagatha Christie” when she publicly claimed Ms Vardy’s account was the source behind three fake stories she had posted on her private Instagram account.

Ms Vardy, who is married to Leicester striker Jamie Vardy, denies leaking stories to the media and is suing her fellow footballer’s wife for libel, while Ms Rooney is defending the claim on the basis her post was “substantially true”.

Making his closing arguments on the final day of the Wagatha Christie trial, David Sherborne, for Ms Rooney, told Ms Justice Steyn that the loss of “crucial” documents by Ms Vardy was deliberate and added: “The only plausible explanation is manual deletion by the claimant herself.”

He also said that, given the loss of this evidence, if it can be inferred that leaks to the press discussed in messages between Ms Vardy and her agent, Caroline Watt, which are before the court were the “tip of the iceberg” and described Ms Vardy as an “entirely unreliable witness”.

Outlining Ms Rooney’s case in a written closing statement, Mr Sherborne said: “In many respects this trial has been extraordinary.

“Extraordinary because of the tenacity of the claimant in backtracking on her admissions of leaks. Extraordinary because of the documentary evidence that flatly contradicts the claimant’s account, as well as the extent to which it plainly demonstrates her consistent practice of secretly leaking information to the press.

“Extraordinary because of the claimant’s failure to ever advance a positive case as to how else the information was leaked, if not via the route identified by the defendant.

“Extraordinary for the determination of the claimant to frustrate the defendant’s efforts to uncover the truth, through the destruction of critical evidence, with yet further destruction being uncovered (only through the defendant’s efforts) even in the weeks before this trial that can only have occurred from deliberate manual deletions.

“And extraordinary because of the absence of the central figure – Caroline Watt, the claimant’s close friend, agent, conduit. Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.”

WhatsApp chat

Referring to the missing parts of the WhatsApp chat between Ms Vardy and Ms Watt, the barrister said: “The fact that a successful export and download of the data had already occurred before the supposed malfunction... is critical.”

He said Ms Vardy’s evidence is that the “corruption supposedly happened” when she tried to upload the file in stage two of the data export.

The barrister continued: “It simply was not possible for what she claims happened to cause the loss of data on the device.

“Try as she might, Ms Vardy’s counsel put the question again and again to no avail. It is not a possibility.”

Mr Sherborne said there was “only one conclusion”, that Ms Vardy had deliberately destroyed parts of the chat.

He added: “It was done to cover up incriminating evidence.”

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.

Both footballers’ wives have been seated just feet apart in court, in front of their barristers, for each day of the hearing so far.

Mr and Ms Rooney did not attend court on Thursday, with Mr Sherborne apologising for their absence and explaining they had a “long-standing travel arrangement with their four children” which was booked when it was thought the trial would finish on Wednesday.

Ms Vardy arrived alone, wearing a bright green top under a black suit, but left court about 30 minutes after the hearing started.

Mr Sherborne also criticised Mr Vardy, who arrived at court with his wife for the first time during the trial on Tuesday and issued a statement via his representatives – which was not part of the proceedings – shortly after Mr Rooney finished giving his evidence.

He told the court: “Of course it is not lost on the court that he was willing to give a press statement while not under oath, he was unwilling to give one for these proceedings.”

The barrister added that Ms Vardy knew from April 1st that Mr Rooney would be giving evidence.

The fake stories Ms Rooney planted on her Instagram during the sting operation featured her travelling to Mexico for a “gender selection” procedure, her planning to return to TV and the basement flooding at her home.

In a now infamous post on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, she wrote: “I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them.

“It’s ........... Rebekah Vardy’s account.”

Ms Vardy’s barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC will make his closing arguments this afternoon, following which the judge will reserve her ruling until a later date.  - PA