A timeline of the Wagatha Christie libel case
The “Wagatha Christie” libel fight 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, had fallen out over a series of leaks to The Sun.
The case is “a modern crime thriller,” Bethany Minelle said on Sky News, “complete with celebrity wars, alleged betrayal, social media traction and perhaps the most famous ellipses of the last century.”
Here’s how it all started.
October 9, 2019
Rooney ‘set the internet on fire’ with a Twitter post Vardy accused of repeatedly leaking private information about her to The Sun, the newspaper reported i. She said that one of her private Instagram followers has been sharing details of her posts with the tabloid “for a number of years.” Suspecting who it was, she blocked all of her other followers and posted a slew of false stories, including that her basement flooded, over the course of a few months to see if they would find their way into the newspaper. “And you know what, they did it!” She wrote. “I saved and screened all the original stories clearly showing that only one person viewed them. It’s … Rebekah Vardy.”
Later in the day Vardy gave one public comment to Rooney after talking to her on the phone. She denied being the leaker, saying that “different people” had accessed her Instagram account over the years. “I’m not funny but I don’t need the money what would I get from selling stories about you?” she wrote. She added that she was “so upset” that Rooney made a public announcement instead of speaking to her directly.
The “careful undercover operation earned Mrs. Rooney the nickname ‘Wagatha Christie,'” the i said, and “like all the best crime novels,” the dispute would eventually find its way to court.
June 23, 2020
Eight months after the original tweet, it emerged that Vardy had filed a £1million defamation suit in the High Court against Rooney over the allegations. “They are on trial in what may be the most explosive celebrity case of all time,” the Daily Mirror wrote at the time.
November 20, 2020
The first phase of the defamation lawsuit began when Mr Justice Warby set the parameters for the case. In what The Guardian called “a win for Vardy”, the judge broadly agreed that a “normal reader” would see Rooney’s post as alleging that Vardy personally “frequently denied her status as a trusted follower of Ms Rooney’s personal Instagram abused account”.
Matthew Dando, a partner at media firm Wiggin, described the result as a “disaster” for Rooney. “It makes it a lot harder for Coleen to prove the truth of the allegation because she has to prove that it was Rebekah herself who leaked the stories,” he said. Rooney has also been ordered to pay Vardy nearly £23,000 in court costs.
June 18, 2021
The case was again before the High Court when Vardy’s lawyers moved to drop parts of Rooney’s defense before the defamation trial.
The court “heard peace talks between the warring WAGs collapsing during mediation,” the Daily Mail said. Vardy’s team argued that despite the “very entertaining stories in the media related to Wagatha Christie,” her client “had long suffered from widespread abuse and hostility as a result of the Post, and her children were also abused at school.”
July 7, 2021
Both sides claimed a partial victory as Ms Justice Steyn decided what arguments Rooney could put forward in her defence. She dismissed an argument that Vardy had insisted on sitting next to Rooney in the Euro 2016 game between England and Wales “to guarantee her media presence”.
However, she decided that Rooney could try to prove that Vardy was behind a “Secret Wag” diary column in The Sun on Sunday that “contained details of alleged affairs and drug use by players” and was published until October 2019 when Rooney admitted that known as a result of their “sleuthing,” The Times said.
Steyn said the allegedly close relationship between Vardy and the tabloid was “one of the building blocks” of Rooney’s defense.
February 8, 2022
“Explosive messages” were read when the saga returned to the Supreme Court in February, the Liverpool Echo reported. Rooney asked the judge to include Vardy’s former agent, Caroline Watt, in the court case.
After Rooney tweeted that someone was “betraying” her with leaks to The Sun, Watt reportedly sent Vardy a private WhatsApp message with a laughing emoji and saying: “It wasn’t anyone she trusted. It was me.”
In other messages, Vardy reportedly called Rooney a “bad bitch” and “ac ***” and said she would “love to x leak these posts.” However, Vardy’s lawyer said the messages were “selective” and the full replacement had “exactly the opposite effect”.
But the court heard Watt accidentally dropped her phone into the sea during a boat trip off the UK coast and lost all of its contents shortly after Rooney’s lawyers asked that the device be searched.
The judge later denied Rooney’s request that Watt be included in the trial, saying it was too late and would delay the main trial.
April 29, 2022
Vardy issued a new statement “accepting the possibility that her publicist leaked the Rooney stories – but without, as she claimed, any authorization from herself,” Nick Greenslade reported in the Sunday Times. However, Rooney has yet to prove that it was Vardy himself who was the “lead to the sun,” he said.
May 10, 2022
The trial is expected to start tomorrow in the High Court and last six days, with the verdict announced at a later date.
“When Rooney passed Vardy in spectacular fashion and Vardy then sued Rooney, it was unlikely that either of the women foresaw the fateful terminus where this runaway train might end,” said Greenslade. The trial, which could cost £3million, could end with Rooney winning but paying much of the cost, or with Vardy being awarded a nominal sum if the judge “feels that the action is effectively a waste of time was”.
“In the end there may be victory for one,” concluded Greenslade, “but there will be little glory.”
https://www.theweek.co.uk/coleen-rooney/953432/a-timeline-of-the-wagatha-christie-libel-battle A timeline of the Wagatha Christie libel case