A timeline of the Wagatha Christie libel case
Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy 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 this week.
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 is “a modern-day whodunnit”, said Bethany Minelle at Sky News, “complete with warring celebrities, alleged betrayal, social media traction and perhaps the most famous ellipses of the last century”.
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, reported 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’”, said 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 again, 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
Both sides claimed partial victory as Mrs Justice Steyn ruled on which arguments Rooney could keep in her defence. 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”, said The Times.
Steyn said the alleged close relationship between Vardy and the tabloid newspaper was “one of the building blocks” of Rooney’s defence.
8 February 2022
“Explosive messages” were read out as the saga returned to the High Court in February, reported the Liverpool Echo. Rooney requested that the judge add Vardy’s former agent, Caroline Watt, to the legal proceedings.
After Rooney tweeted that somebody was “betraying” her with leaks to The Sun, Watt allegedly sent a private WhatsApp message to Vardy with a laughing face emoji, saying: “It wasn’t someone she trusted. It was me.”
In other messages, Vardy allegedly referred to Rooney as a “nasty bitch” and “a c***”, and said she “would love to leak those posts x”. However, Vardy’s lawyer said the messages were “selective”, and that the exchange in full had “precisely the opposite effect”.
However, the court heard that Watt accidentally dropped her phone into the sea while on a boat trip off the British coast, losing all its contents, shortly after Rooney’s lawyers asked to search the device.
The judge later refused Rooney’s request to add Watt to proceedings, saying it had come too late and would delay the main trial.
29 April 2022
Vardy issued a new statement “accepting the likelihood that her publicist had leaked the Rooney stories – but without, she maintained, any authorisation from herself”, reported Nick Greenslade in The Sunday Times. Yet, Rooney still has to prove that it was Vardy herself who was the “conduit to The Sun”, he said.
10 May 2022
The trial is expected to begin tomorrow at the High Court and is scheduled to take six days, with the judgment being handed down at a later date.
“When Rooney spectacularly outed Vardy, and then Vardy sued Rooney, it is unlikely that either woman foresaw the doom-laden terminus at which this runaway train might end,” said Greenslade. The trial, which could cost £3m, may end with Rooney winning but shouldering much of the costs or end with Vardy awarded a nominal sum if the judge “thinks the action has effectively been a waste of time”.
“There may be victory in the end for one,” concluded Greenslade, “but there will be little glory.”