A UK judge Friday effectively branded England footballer’s wife Rebekah Vardy a liar as she rejected her “Wagatha Christie” libel suit against Coleen Rooney, following a trial that lifted the lid on celebrity skullduggery.
High Court judge Karen Steyn found that allegations made by Rooney against Vardy were “substantially true”, and that Vardy was “substantially engaged” in the release of damaging stories to The Sun newspaper by her agent.
Vardy’s husband Jamie plays for Leicester City, while Rooney is the wife of former Manchester United star Wayne. The 12-day trial in May laid bare tabloid double-dealing and the lives of the rich and famous.
Fascination with the lives of the wives and girlfriends (WAGs) of top-flight footballers — and their very public falling-out — produced wall-to-wall coverage of the trial.
The pair’s designer outfits and Coleen’s surgical boot made front-page news, while social media split into two camps, — #TeamColeen and #TeamRebekah.
Coleen, the childhood sweetheart of England’s leading goal scorer, was dubbed “Wagatha Christie” after she set up an elaborate sting to try to determine who was behind the leaks, then announced her findings publicly.
“It’s… Rebekah Vardy’s account,” she said.
Legal costs reportedly ran into millions of pounds (dollars, euros), and the women’s lawyers had previously represented Hollywood actor Johnny Depp and Chelsea Football Club’s former owner Roman Abramovich.
Vardy vehemently denied leaking details from Rooney’s private Instagram account, and had sought “substantial libel damages”, her lawyer Hugh Tomlinson said at the trial.
But she faced accusations from Rooney’s lawyer David Sherborne of being “an entirely unreliable witness”.
– Peter Andre –
English libel law placed the onus on Rooney to prove that her post alleging she had traced the leaked stories to Vardy was “substantially true”.
Vardy nevertheless faced lengthy cross-examination and was even questioned on an interview where she derided the penis size of her previous boyfriend, the pop singer Peter Andre.
Her lawyer said his client was “entitled to an award of substantial libel damages” for serious harm to her reputation, to vindicate her and to compensate “distress caused by the publication”.
Summing up, Rooney’s lawyer alleged that Vardy “regularly and frequently leaked information to The Sun about a number of people… as opposed to simply Mrs Rooney”.
He accused her of being “hand in glove” with her former agent, Caroline Watt, who did not testify and was unable to present a mobile phone she said she had dropped in the North Sea.
The lawyer alleged that Vardy selectively deleted messages ahead of the trial.
Vardy’s lawyer said his client “made mistakes” by trusting Watt, who may have sought to leak stories.
But he said that their communications were “largely tittle-tattle, gossip” and there was no “contemporaneous evidence” of Vardy contacting the tabloid.
He said the case had been “serious and extremely upsetting” for his client.