Rebekah Vardy loses ‘Wagatha Christie’ libel case against Coleen Rooney
Rebekah Vardy has lost her “Wagatha Christie” libel case against Coleen Rooney, in a dramatic self-inflicted legal defeat that leaves her reputation destroyed.
Three years ago Rooney conducted a “sting” operation to find out who was leaking stories from her private Instagram account to journalists at the Sun. Rooney identified the culprit with the now infamous words: “It Was……… Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Vardy strongly denied passing information to the Sun and sued Rooney for libel in a bid to restore her reputation, resulting in a multimillion-pound court case at the high court in May.
On Friday, Mrs Justice Steyn ruled that Vardy’s libel claim had failed, meaning it was all for nothing.
The judge concluded that “significant parts” of Vardy’s evidence were not credible and that there were many occasions when her evidence “was manifestly inconsistent with the contemporaneous documentary evidence, evasive or implausible”.
She also said that Vardy and her former agent Caroline Watt had deliberately destroyed potentially damning evidence. In one instance, WhatsApp messages on Watt’s phone were lost after the device was dropped off the side of a boat in the North Sea shortly after a request was made to search it. Vardy’s own copy of the same WhatsApp messages was lost while in the process of backing them up.
The judge concluded: “It is likely that Ms Vardy deliberately deleted her WhatsApp chat with Ms Watt, and that Ms Watt deliberately dropped her phone in the sea.”
She also concluded that it was likely Vardy “knew of, condoned and was actively engaged” in the process of Watt leaking stories about Rooney to the Sun.
Bringing the case meant Vardy – the wife of the Leicester City footballer Jamie – endured days of painful cross-examination in front of the world’s media at the high court in central London. This covered everything from her history of selling kiss-and-tell stories to tabloids about the singer Peter Andre, allegations she had leaked details of her husband’s relationship with his teammates, and her own record of passing information to the Sun. Rather than clearing her name, the case has left her nursing a nasty defeat and a tarnished reputation.
During the seven-day trial the court heard of excruciating personal WhatsApp messages sent by Vardy against Rooney, details about her trying to sell a story about a drink-driving arrest involving the Chelsea footballer Danny Drinkwater to the Sun, and her attempts to shift the blame for the leaks about Rooney on to Watt.
In particular, there was widespread mockery in court of the loss of potentially crucial evidence by Vardy and those around her. Other files also went missing, prompting Rooney’s lawyers to invoke a legal precedent from 1722 to argue that – in the absence of evidence – the judge should assume the worst.
The legal team for Rooney, the wife of the former Manchester United footballer Wayne, admitted to the court that they did not have a single smoking gun that proved definitively that it was Vardy who was responsible for the leaks. However, they defended the claim on two grounds: first, that the accusation was true based on circumstantial evidence available to Rooney; and second, that it was in the public interest for Rooney to make the accusation against Vardy.
Because juries have in effect been abolished for libel trials in England and Wales, there was no instant verdict as to who won the case when the hearings finished in May.
Vardy’s team had told the court her life had been made hell by Rooney’s public accusation, which left her open to widespread mockery, social media abuse, and negative chants when her husband played football.
Her barrister, Hugh Tomlinson, said his client would have had to have been “very clever or very cynical” to have undertaken the manual deletion of WhatsApp messages. He said it would be an “extraordinarily complicated conspiracy” to have deleted all the evidence.
The case has become a major cultural talking point, with several television projects based around the court case currently in the works.