Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney: what is Wagatha Christie row, tweet explained, when does libel trial start?
The ‘Wagatha Christie’ scandal involving the wives of footballers Jamie Vardy and Wayne Rooney took the internet by storm in 2019
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This is everything you need to know about the trial.
Who are the main players in the trial?
The two names in the case that you’ll need to know about are Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy.
Who is Coleen Rooney?
Coleen Rooney (née McLoughlin) is an English TV personality, writer and the wife of former professional footballer Wayne Rooney.
Rooney, born on 3 April 1986, grew up in Liverpool, and used to write a column for the magazine Closer, called Welcome to My World. She left Closer in 2008 to write a weekly fashion and news column for OK magazine.
She began her TV presenting career in 2006, when she assisted Sir Trevor McDonald on Tonight with Trevor McDonald in a programme about Rett syndrome, a genetic disorder that her adopted sister Rosie suffered from. Rosie passed away in 2013 at the age of 14.
From there, Rooney went on to star in her own series for ITV called Coleen’s Real Women in which she sought out regular women to front advertising campaigns, rather than models.
Rooney released a workout DVD in 2005, called Coleen McLoughlin’s Brand New Body Workout, and became the face of Asda’s George clothing line. She has also released a number of books throughout the years as well, starting with her autobiography Welcome to My World, released in 2007, which was then followed by Coleen’s Real Style in 2008.
From 2008 to 2010, she also released a four book series called Coleen Style Queen.
Rooney met her future husband, footballer Wayne Rooney, at the age of 12 and started dating when they were 16, after leaving secondary school.
Following his England debut at 17, Wayne proposed to his future wife at the age of 17.
Talking about the proposal, Rooney said: “He was very nervous. People think we are too young, but I don’t think we are. He is the person I love and want to stay with for the rest of my life.”
The two tied the knot in Portofino, Italy, on 12 June 2008. The couple have since had four children together - Kai Wayne, born 2 November 2009, Klay Antony, born 21 May 2013, Kit Joseph, born 24 January 2916 and Cass Mac, born 15 February 2018.
Who is Rebekah Vardy?
Rebekah Vardy (née Miranda) is an English media personality, model and wife of professional English footballer Jamie Vardy.
Vardy, born 17 February 1982, has appeared on a number of British TV talk shows, including as a guest panellist and presenter on Loose Women, Good Morning Britain, Jeremy Vine and This Morning.
In 2017, she starred in the 17th season of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! where she was the third celebrity to be voted off the show.
In 2019, she and husband Jamie appeared on two episodes of Celebrity Gogglebox and in 2020 it was announced that she would be taking part in the 13th series of Dancing on Ice. Vardy partnered up with professional Andy Buchanan and was ultimately eliminated from the show in week six.
Vardy met future husband Jamie in 2014, when she was working as a nightclub promoter. The pair married on 25 May 2016 at Peckforton Castle.
Vardy has two children from a previous relationship with footballer Luke Foster - daughter Megan, born in 2005, and son Taylor, born in 2010. She and Jamie have three children together - Sofia, born 2014, Finlay, born 2017 and Olivia Grace, born 2019.
Jamie also has a daughter from a previous relationship called Ella, whom Vardy is stepmother to.
What was their row about?
On 9 October 2019, Rooney took to Twitter to accuse a certain individual of leaking personal information from her private life.
She wrote: “This has been a burden in my life for a few years now and finally I have got to the bottom of it….”
The post in full said: “For a few years now someone who I trusted to follow me on my personal Instagram account has been consistently informing The SUN newspaper of my private posts and stories.
“There has been so much information given to them about me, my friends and my family - all without my permission or knowledge.
“After a long time of trying to figure out who it could be, for various reasons, I had a suspicion.
“To try and prove this, I came up with an idea. I blocked everyone from viewing my Instagram stories except ONE account. (Those on my private account must have been wondering why I haven’t had stories on there for a while.)
“Over the past five months I have posted a series of false stories to see if they made their way into the Sun newspaper. And you know what, they did! The story about gender selection in Mexico, the story about returning to TV and then the latest story about the basement flooding in my new house.
“It’s been tough keeping it to myself and not making any comment at all, especially when the stories have been leaked, however I had to. Now I know for certain which account/individual it’s come from.
“I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them.
“It’s…………… Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
The tweet quickly went viral online, with their row being dubbed as the “Wagatha Christie” scandal, a play on famous mystery writer Agatha Christie and the acronym WAG which is used to refer to the wives and girlfriends of professional footballers.
The term was coined by a comedian called Dan Atkinson who, at 11:16am on 9 October 2019, roughly 45 minutes after Rooney’s accusation went live on the social media site, tweeted: “Coleen Rooney: WAGagtha Christie.”
Since posting it back in 2019, Atkinson’s tweet has racked up over 20,000 likes.
Talking about the tweet, Atkinson said: “I knew the tweet was a neat pun, but anyone who says they can guess what will go crazy is lying aren’t they?
“I tend to stay off Twitter these days because for every amazing day like Wednesday, there are most days where it’s too chippy and reductive to be fun.
“So given I stay away mostly, I must have had an inkling the tweet was decent.
“My first thought when I saw it trending was, “I wish I had spelt it correctly”.”
The comedian mistakenly added an extra “g” where it shouldn’t be in his tweet, writing “WAGagtha” instead of “WAGatha”.
Atkinson added: “As far as I know I was the first person on this one.”
What did Rebekah Vardy say about the accusation?
Vardy, who was pregnant with her fifth child at the time, immediately denied being the person behind the leaks. She claimed that a number of people had access to her Instagram account over the years.
On the same day as Rooney’s Twitter post, Vardy posted on Instagram her defence, writing in the caption: “Can’t believe I’m even having to write this. I’m pregnant & on holiday & am at a loss as to why she would do this. I’m not having to take legal advice as I can’t deal with this stress myself when I’m this pregnant.”
In the post, she wrote: “As I have just said to you on the phone, I wish you had called me if you thought this. I never speak to anyone about you as various journalists who have asked me to over the years can vouch for.
“If you thought this was happening you could have told me & I could have changed my passwords to see if it stopped. Over the years various people have had access to my insta & just this week I found I was following people I didn’t know and have never followed myself.
“I’m not being funny but I don’t need the money, what would I gain from selling stories on you? I liked you a lot Coleen & I’m so upset that you’ve chosen to do this, especially when I’m heavily pregnant.
“I’m disgusted that I’m even having to deny this. You should have called me the first time this happened.”
On 13 February 2020, Vardy appeared on Loose Women, in which she said that the stress of the dispute caused her to have severe anxiety attacks and that she “ended up in hospital three times”.
In a statement, Rooney said that she does not want to “engage in further public debate”.
When did the court case begin?
When Rooney failed to offer a public apology for her accusation, Vardy decided to sue her for libel in 2020.
Vardy’s lawyers alleged that she “suffered extreme distress, hurt, anxiety and embarrassment as a result of the publication of the post and the events which followed”.
In November 2020, Mr Justice Warby ruled in favour of Vardy proceeding forward with the case after the libel preliminary hearing at the High Court. Rooney was ordered to pay Vardy almost £23,000 in court costs.
He concluded that the “natural and ordinary” meaning of the posts was that Mrs Vardy had “regularly and frequently abused her status as a trusted follower of Mrs Rooney’s personal Instagram account by secretly informing The Sun of Mrs Rooney’s private posts and stories”.
In February 2022, a series of explosive messages between Vardy and her agent Caroline Watt, which Rooney’s lawyers have alleged were about her, were revealed at a preliminary court hearing.
The court was told Vardy was not referring to Rooney when she called someone a “nasty b**ch” in one exchange with Watt.
Rooney’s lawyers sought further information from the WhatsApp messages, but Rooney’s barrister, David Sherborne, told the High Court that a “series of unfortunate events” have happened over the evidence in the case, notably Watt’s phone falling into the North Sea.
Vardy’s lawyers have said she has “nothing to hide”.
Also in February, Rooney was refused permission to bring a High Court claim against Watt for misuse of private information to be heard alongside the libel battle. Mrs Justice Steyn, a High Court judge, said that the bid was brought too late and that previous opportunities to make the claim had not been taken.
It has been estimated that the total legal costs have come in at over £400,000 on each side.
What’s the latest with the trial?
Following months of preliminary hearings, none of which were attended by either Vardy or Rooney, the full trial is expected to begin at London’s Royal Court of Justice today, Tuesday 10 May.
In April, Watt was declared as not fit to give oral evidence at the upcoming libel trial. She also revoked permission for her witness statement to be used, and withdrew the waiver which would have allowed Sun journalists to say whether she was the source of the allegedly leaked stories.
Also in April, the High Court was told by Sherborne that Vardy’s new statement “suggests Ms Watt was the source of the leak but claims that Mrs Vardy “did not authorise or condone her””.
Sherbone added: “It now appears… that she too “believes” that Ms Watt is the source.”
He said that “in an abrupt change of position” Vardy “appears now to accept Mrs Rooney’s case, that Caroline Watt… was the conduit” by which the stories about Rooney were leaked to the Sun.
Sherbone said: “It has become undeniably obvious that Ms Watt is the source and Mrs Vardy, true to form says “it wasn’t me, I didn’t realise and I didn’t know anything about what was going on”.”
Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Vardy, told the court that Vardy’s new witness statement did not contain “any change whatever in the pleaded case”.
Tomlinson said: “We simply don’t know what the true position is in relation to Ms Watt.
“She’s not communicating with anybody. She’s not communicating with anybody on our side and we don’t know what her position is.”
The trial in front of Mrs Justice Steyn is expected to last seven days.