Rebekah Vardy has lost the “Wagatha Christie” High Court libel battle she brought against Coleen Rooney over a viral social media post accusing her of leaking family secrets to the press.
Ms Vardy, 40, sued Ms Rooney over an accusation that she had disclosed personal details of her private life to the press. It came after Ms Rooney had staged an elaborate sting operation to find out who was passing stories about her to The Sun tabloid.
The legal feud was nicknamed 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, a nod to Ms Rooney's amateur sleuthing.
Ms Rooney was the first to react to the verdict, saying she was pleased, while Ms Vardy indicated she would not be appealing.
In a much-anticipated ruling on Friday, Mrs Justice Steyn found in Ms Rooney's favour and dismissed the claim against her.
The judge said it was “likely” that Ms Vardy's agent at the time, Caroline Watt, “undertook the direct act” of passing the information to The Sun.
“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 judge said.
“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.”
Their courtroom bust-up has attracted headlines and media attention to rival much of their husbands' footballing efforts.
Wayne Rooney holds the record for the most international goals for England (53), while Ms 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 — Ms 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 sometimes less-flattering aspects of the lives of rich and famous football stars and their families.
Mrs Justice Steyn said that Ms Vardy had faced “vile abuse” from members of the public.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
Shortly after the verdict was returned, Ms Rooney issued a statement saying she thought the case should not have reached court.
“Naturally, I am pleased that the judge has found in my favour with her judgment today,” she said.
“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.
Ms Vardy asked those who have subjected her to abuse to stop, and indicated she does not intend to appeal against the ruling, saying “the case is over”.
“Please can the people who have been abusing me and my family now stop. The case is over. I want to thank everyone who has supported me,” she said.
“I am extremely sad and disappointed at the decision that the judge has reached. 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.”
The intrigue began almost three years ago when Ms Rooney became suspicious about stories appearing in The Sun that were based on information she had put on her personal Instagram account. She turned detective to try to establish the culprit.
She said she blocked everyone from viewing her account except one person and then posted a series of false stories to see whether they were leaked, which she said they had been.
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.”
“I didn't leak anything,” Ms Vardy told the High Court in London during hearings in May as she denied instructing her close associates to disclose the information.