Whodunnit? 'WAGatha Christie' libel trial concludes it was Rebekah Vardy

Wayne Rooney's wife Coleen (right) accuses Jamie Vardy's wife Rebekah of leaking details of her private life to the press. PHOTOS: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Mrs Coleen Rooney, the wife of former England soccer captain Wayne, emerged victorious in her high-profile libel match with the spouse of one of his ex-teammates after the High Court in London agreed Mrs Rebekah Vardy had leaked stories about her to the press.  

In a case that has fascinated the media and public alike with its mix of glamour, soccer, and amateur sleuthing, the court backed Mrs Rooney’s very public assertion that Mrs Vardy had been spilling private details to the Sun tabloid.  

The intrigue began almost three years ago when Mrs Rooney became suspicious about stories appearing in the Sun tabloid involving information she had put on her personal Instagram account.

She turned detective to try to find out who the culprit was.  She said she blocked everyone from viewing her account except one person and then posted a series of false stories to see whether they leaked out, which she said they had.  

She wrote on her social media accounts that only one person had viewed the false stories, concluding with the dramatic revelation: “It’s... Rebekah Vardy’s account.”

Mrs Vardy, 40, sued Mrs Rooney and the feud was dubbed the “WAGatha Christie” case, a reference to the “WAG” moniker given to the glamorous group of footballers’ wives and girlfriends, and to the renowned author of detective novels, in honour of Mrs Rooney’s amateur sleuthing.  

The judge, Justice Karen Steyn, said in her ruling that Mrs Rooney had successfully proved her allegation was “substantially true”.

She concluded that Mrs Vardy knew and condoned details being leaked to the Sun by her agent Caroline Watt.  

“It was not a case I ever sought or wanted,” Mrs Rooney said in a statement. “I never believed it should have gone to court at such expense ... when the money could have been far better spent helping others,” she added. 

Any decision over who foots the legal fees will be settled at a future hearing. British media have speculated the trial cost millions of pounds. 

“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,” Mrs Rooney said. 

Mrs Vardy said she was “extremely sad and disappointed at the decision”. 

“It is not the result that I had expected, nor believe was just. I brought this action to vindicate my reputation and am devastated by the judge’s finding,” she said in a statement.“(The judge) got it wrong and this is something I cannot accept.”

During a trial in May, the court was shown message exchanges she had with Ms Watt, which included some derogatory remarks about Mrs Rooney and discussions of leaking stories, while Mrs Rooney’s lawyer said Mrs Vardy had deleted other media files and WhatsApp messages.  

Meanwhile Ms Watt’s phone ended up at the bottom of the North Sea after she accidentally dropped it over the side of a boat.  

“I find that it is, unfortunately, necessary to treat Mrs Vardy’s evidence with very considerable caution,” Justice Steyn said. “There were many occasions when her evidence was manifestly inconsistent with the contemporaneous documentary evidence, and others where she was evasive.”

Their courtroom bust-up has attracted similar level of public interest and media attention as any of their husbands’ soccer games.  

Mr Wayne Rooney holds the record for the most international goals for his country, while Mrs Vardy’s husband Jamie has been one of the top scorers in the English Premier League in recent years, also playing and scoring for the national side.  

Both women are well-known figures in their own right – Mrs Coleen Rooney, 36, has 1.2 million followers on Twitter and almost 925,000 on Instagram – and the libel case has lifted the lid on the glittering and less flattering aspects of the lives of rich and famous soccer stars and their families.  

Mrs Vardy says her family had received abuse and threats as a result of Mrs Rooney’s public accusation and Justice Steyn agreed it was not in the public interest for the disclosure to have been made by Mrs Rooney without giving Mrs Vardy the chance to respond first. 

“Some members of the public have responded to the Reveal Post by subjecting Ms Vardy to vile abuse, including messages wishing her, her family, and even her (then unborn) baby, ill in the most awful terms,” Justice Steyn said. “Nothing of which Ms 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.”

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