A verdict has been delivered in the ‘Wagatha Christie’ High Court libel battle and it’s not good news for Rebekah Vardy.
Mrs Vardy has lost the libel case after the judge ruled against her.
She brought the case against Coleen Rooney after she was accused of leaking stories to the press.
In a viral social media post in October 2019, Mrs Rooney, 36, said she had carried out a “sting operation” and accused Mrs Vardy, 40, of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the press.
The wife of former England star Wayne Rooney publicly claimed Mrs Vardy’s account was the source behind three fake stories she had posted on her private Instagram account.
Here is all you need to know:
What was the verdict?
Rebekah Vardy has lost her libel battle with Coleen Rooney at the High Court.
Mrs Justice Steyn delivered her ruling today (29 July).
The highly-publicised week-long trial - which was dubbed by many as the “Wagatha Christie” case - took place in May and the verdict has now been delivered.
Mrs Justice Steyn found that Mrs Rooney’s viral social media post was “substantially true” and dismissed the claim against her.
How has Coleen Rooney reacted?
Coleen Rooney said: “Naturally, I am pleased that the judge has found in my favour with her judgment today.
“It was not a case I ever sought or wanted. I never believed it should have gone to court at such expense in times of hardship for so many people when the money could have been far better spent helping others.
“Both before and after my social media posts in October 2019, I made every effort to avoid the need for such a drawn out and public court case. All my attempts to do so were knocked back by Mrs (Rebekah) Vardy.
“This left me with no alternative but to go through with the case to defend myself and to end the repeated leaking of my private information to The Sun.
“These leaks from my private Instagram account began in 2017. They continued for almost two years, intruding on my privacy and that of my family. Although I bear Mrs Vardy no ill-will, today’s judgment makes clear that I was right in what I said in my posts of October 2019.
“Finally, I would like to thank all of my legal team, my family, friends and everyone who supported me, including the public, through this difficult and stressful time.”
What did the judge say?
The judge said it was “likely” that Mrs Vardy’s agent at the time, Caroline Watt, “undertook the direct act” of passing the information to The Sun.
But she added: “Nonetheless, the evidence … clearly shows, in my view, that Mrs Vardy knew of and condoned this behaviour, actively engaging in it by directing Ms Watt to the private Instagram account, sending her screenshots of Mrs Rooney’s posts, drawing attention to items of potential interest to the press, and answering additional queries raised by the press via Ms Watt.”
Mrs Justice Steyn said in her ruling: “In my judgment, the conclusions that I have reached as to the extent to which the claimant engaged in disclosing to The Sun information to which she only had access as a permitted follower of an Instagram account which she knew, and Mrs Rooney repeatedly asserted, was private, suffice to show the single meaning is substantially true.”
Mrs Vardy faced “vile abuse”
Mrs Justice Steyn said that Rebekah Vardy had faced “vile abuse” from members of the public following Coleen Rooney’s post.
She said: “Some members of the public have responded to the reveal post by subjecting Mrs Vardy to vile abuse, including messages wishing her, her family, and even her then-unborn baby, ill in the most awful terms.
“Nothing of which Mrs Vardy has been accused, nor any of the findings in this judgment, provide any justification or excuse for subjecting her or her family, or any other person involved in this case, to such vitriol.”
Vardy’s evidence was “inconsistent”
Mrs Justice Steyn has found that Rebekah Vardy’s evidence in the trial was “manifestly inconsistent” with other evidence on “many occasions”.
In her judgment, she said: “It was evident that Mrs Vardy found the process of giving evidence stressful and, at times, distressing. I bear in mind when assessing her evidence the degree of stress she was naturally feeling, given the high-profile nature of the trial, the abuse that she has suffered since the reveal post was published, and the length of time she was in the witness box.”
The judge added: “Nevertheless, I find that it is, unfortunately, necessary to treat Mrs Vardy’s evidence with very considerable caution.
“There were many occasions when her evidence was manifestly inconsistent with the contemporaneous documentary evidence, e.g. in relation to the World Cup 2018 and the photoshopped pictures, and others where she was evasive.”
Mrs Justice Steyn continued: “Mrs Vardy was generally unwilling to make factual concessions, however implausible her evidence.
“This inevitably affects my overall view of her credibility, although I have borne in mind that untruthful evidence may be given to mask guilt or to fortify innocence.”
How much were the legal costs in the trial?
It is believed the total legal costs of the case will be in the region of £3 million, most of which will now be borne by Mrs Vardy.
What happened during the trial?
During the trial, the two women each gave evidence, as did Mr Rooney, also 36, who played for Everton and Manchester United as well as England.
Referring to Mrs Rooney’s viral “reveal” post at the end of the trial, her barrister David Sherborne told the court: “It is what she believed at the time… and it is what she believes even more so now that we have got to the end of the case.”
Mr Sherborne argued that Mrs Vardy had a “habitual and established practice” of leaking information about those she knew – through Ms Watt – to The Sun newspaper.
He said there were, in text message exchanges between Mrs Vardy and Ms Watt, examples of the pair discussing leaking other people’s private information.
What were the fake stories?
The fake stories Mrs Rooney planted on her Instagram during the sting operation featured her travelling to Mexico for a “gender selection” procedure, her planning to return to TV, and the basement flooding at her home.
In the post on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, she 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.”