A timeline of the Wagatha Christie libel battle
Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy still locked in feud over private Instagram leak
The “Wagatha Christie” libel battle between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy is set to culminate in a high-profile trial, despite both sides being urged to settle the case to avoid rocketing legal bills.
The two women, who became friends through their footballer husbands, Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy, have been at loggerheads over a series of leaks to The Sun.
The case was back in the High Court yesterday ahead of the full trial, expected later this year. Here is how it all began.
9 October 2019
Rooney “set the internet ablaze” with a Twitter post accusing Vardy of repeatedly leaking private information about her to The Sun, says the i newspaper. She said that “for a few years” one of her private Instagram account followers had been sharing details of her posts with the tabloid. Suspecting who it was, she blocked all her other followers and posted a series of false stories over a few months, including that her basement had flooded, to see if they would make their way into the newspaper. “And you know what, they did!” she wrote. “I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them. It’s… Rebekah Vardy.”
Later in the day, Vardy issued a public statement to Rooney after speaking to her on the phone. She denied being the leaker and said that over the years “various people” had accessed her Instagram account. “I’m not being funny, but I don’t need the money, what would I gain from selling stories on you?” she wrote. She added that she was “so upset” Rooney had made a public announcement rather than speak to her directly.
The “careful sting operation earned Mrs Rooney the sobriquet ‘Wagatha Christie’”, says the i, and “like all the best whodunnits”, the dispute would finally make its way to a court of law.
23 June 2020
Eight months on from the original tweet, it emerged that Vardy had launched a £1m High Court defamation lawsuit against Rooney over the accusations. “The pair are set to clash in court in what could be the most explosive celebrity case of all time,” wrote the Daily Mirror at the time.
20 November 2020
The first stage of the libel action began, as Mr Justice Warby set the parameters for the case. In what The Guardian called “a victory for Vardy”, the judge largely agreed that an “ordinary reader” would see Rooney’s post as an allegation that Vardy personally had “frequently abused her status as a trusted follower of Ms Rooney’s personal Instagram account”.
Matthew Dando, a partner at the media law firm Wiggin, called the result a “disaster” for Rooney. “This makes it much harder for Coleen to prove the truth of the allegation because she will have to show that it was Rebekah herself who was leaking the stories,” he said. Rooney was also ordered to pay Vardy almost £23,000 in court costs.
18 June 2021
The case was back in the High Court agai, as Vardy’s lawyers applied to strike out parts of Rooney’s defence in advance of the libel trial.
The court “heard how peace talks between the warring WAGs broke down during mediation”, said the Daily Mail. Vardy’s team argued that despite the “highly entertaining stories in the media referring to Wagatha Christie”, their client had “suffered widespread abuse and hostility as a result of the post for a long period and her children were also abused at school”.
7 July 2021
Yesterday, both sides claimed partial victory as Mrs Justice Steyn ruled on which arguments Rooney could keep in her defence after last month’s hearing. She dismissed an argument that Vardy had insisted on sitting next to Rooney in the 2016 European Championship match between England and Wales “to guarantee her appearance in the media”.
However, she ruled that Rooney could try to prove that Vardy was behind a “Secret Wag” diary column in The Sun on Sunday, which “included details of players’ alleged affairs and drug use”, and was published up until October 2019 when Rooney announced the result of her “detective work”, says The Times.
Steyn said the alleged close relationship between Vardy and the tabloid newspaper was “one of the building blocks” of Rooney’s defence. Dando told the paper: “While this judgment may bring Vardy back to the negotiating table, it is a mixed result with some of the broader allegations Rooney sought to rely on struck out.”