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Rebekah Vardy loses ‘Wagatha Christie’ libel case against Coleen Rooney

PA Wire

Rebekah Vardy has lost her multi-million pound libel case against Coleen Rooney after the High Court ruled that she was behind a series of stories that were leaked to the tabloid media.

Ms Vardy, 40, sued Ms Rooney, 36, for defamation after she publicly accused her of being the source of stories that were leaked to The Sun newspaper.

In October 2019, the wife of former England star Wayne Rooney published a post on her social media accounts saying she had carried out a months-long “sting operation” and accused Ms Vardy of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the press.

Ms Vardy, who is married to Leicester striker Jamie Vardy, denied leaking stories to the media and sued her fellow footballer’s wife for libel, while Ms Rooney defended the claim on the basis her post was “substantially true”.

In a much-anticipated ruling on Friday, Ms Justice Steyn found that even if Ms Vardy was not the direct source of the leak, evidence showed she “knew of, condoned and actively engaged” in information being passed on to The Sun.

In her ruling, Ms Justice Steyn said it was “likely” Ms Vardy’s agent at the time, Caroline Watt, “undertook the direct act” of passing the information to the tabloid.

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.”

The High Court judge also said there was “a degree of self-deception” on Ms Vardy’s part about her role in disclosing information and that she seemed “genuinely offended” by Ms Vardy’s accusation.

She said: “Although significant parts of Mrs Vardy’s evidence were not credible, my assessment is that she is genuinely offended by the accusation made against her by Mrs Rooney in the reveal post.

“However, that is not because she was not involved in disclosing information from the private Instagram account: I have found that she was.

Rebekah Vardy sought ‘substantial damages’ from Coleen Rooney (REUTERS)

“Rather, her indignation at the accusation flows, in my judgment, from a combination of factors.

“Mrs Vardy’s part in disclosing information to The Sun was, it seems to me, unthinking rather than part of a considered and concerted business practice.

“Consequently, there has been a degree of self-deception on her part regarding the extent to which she was involved, as well as a degree of justified resentment at the exaggerated way in which her role has at times been presented during the litigation.”

Ms Rooney took to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on 19 October 2019 to issue an astonishing attack on Ms Vardy, accusing her of betraying her confidence.

The statement, which quickly went viral, explained how Ms Rooney had become concerned that stories from her private Instagram account were being passed on to the press.

She explained how she had decided to set a trap for the leaker and posted a series of false stories to see if they would find their way into the media. Acting on her suspicions, she limited who could see her Instagram stories until only one account remained - Rebekah Vardy’s account.

“I blocked everyone from viewing my Instagram stories except ONE account,” Ms Rooney explained. “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!”

“I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them,” she continued, before dramatically revealing: “It’s……… Rebekah Vardy’s account.”

Coleen Rooney told her friends ‘don’t play games with a girl who can play better’ after reveal post (EPA)

During the trial, Ms Vardy accepted it was possible her friend and former agent Caroline Watt may have been the source of some of the leaks.

Her lawyer, Mr Hugh Tomlinson QC, told the High Court during his closing statement that Ms Vardy “does not know to this day what happened, she does not know where this information came from”.

“It is possible, as she now accepts, that the source of the leak could well be Caroline Watt,” he said. “Mrs Vardy has obviously made mistakes. One of the mistakes that she made...is that she trusted someone she shouldn’t have trusted.”

Ms Rooney stood by her “Wagatha Christie” reveal post throughout the trial, saying in a written statement to court: “I have always been confident in the truth of what I posted on October 9 2019.”

Reacting to the ruling, Ms Rooney said she was “pleased” it went in her favour but that she “never believed” the case 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”.

She added in a statement: “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.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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