‘Wagatha Christie’ libel trial begins as footballers’ wives go into battle

Rebekah Vardy suing Coleen Rooney over accusations she leaked stories to UK media

The high-profile libel battle between Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney, the wives of England football internationals Jamie Vardy and Wayne Rooney, is set to go to trial on Tuesday.

Ms Rooney accused Ms Vardy of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the media in October 2019, after she said she carried out a months-long “sting operation”, which led to her being dubbed “Wagatha Christie” by English media.

Ms Rooney publicly claimed that Ms Vardy shared with the Sun newspaper three fake stories she had posted on her personal Instagram account.

The fake stories included Ms Rooney travelling to Mexico for a "gender selection" procedure, her planning to return to TV, and the basement flooding at her home.

Ms Rooney 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 Rooney's post was widely shared and heavily parodied on social media at the time, including by the Twitter account of Jeremy Corbyn, then leader of the Labour Party.

Ms Vardy denies the accusations and is suing Ms Rooney for libel.

Under English defamation law, the burden of proof now will be on Ms Rooney to prove that her post was “substantially true”.

The full trial is expected to begin at London’s Royal Courts of Justice following months of preliminary hearings – none of which have been attended by either Ms Vardy or Ms Rooney.

The case first went to court in November 2020, with a judge finding that Ms Rooney’s post “clearly identified” Ms Vardy as being “guilty of the serious and consistent breach of trust”.

‘Multiple dots’

The judge, now Lord Justice Warby, also said that "the element of suspense introduced by the multiple dots seems to me designed to raise expectations of a dramatic revelation".

Since then, several hearings have taken place to prepare for the trial, including one where texts between Ms Vardy and agent Caroline Watt emerged, in one of which Ms Vardy called someone a "nasty bitch".

In February, Ms Rooney's barrister David Sherborne told the high court that a "series of unfortunate events" had happened over the evidence in the case, notably Ms Watt's phone falling into the North Sea.

Ms Vardy’s lawyers have said she has “nothing to hide”.

Most recently, the high court was told by Mr Sherborne that Ms Vardy “appears to accept” that Ms Watt was the source of leaked stories about Coleen Rooney that were published in the Sun.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Ms Vardy, told the court that his client’s new witness statement did not contain “any change whatever in the pleaded case”.

Ms Watt had been due to give evidence in the trial, but was recently found to be “not fit” to take part. She also withdrew her written evidence.

Mr Tomlinson said: “We simply don’t know what the true position is in relation to Ms Watt . . . She’s not communicating with anybody.”

The trial in front of Mrs Justice Steyn is expected to last seven days.

– PA