LONDON: Coleen Rooney, wife of former England football captain Wayne, emerged victorious in her high-profile libel match with the spouse of an ex-teammate after a High Court judge agreed that Rebekah Vardy had leaked stories about her to the Press.
In a case that has gripped the public with its mix of glamour, football and amateur sleuthing, the judge backed Coleen’s public assertion that Vardy had spilled private details about her to the Sun tabloid, leaving Vardy “devastated”.
The intrigue began almost three years ago when Coleen grew suspicious about stories in the Sun and turned detective to try to find the culprit.
She said she blocked everyone from viewing her Instagram account except one person and then posted a series of false stories to see whether they leaked out, which they did.
Coleen 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.”
Vardy, 40, sued Coleen and the feud was dubbed the “WAGatha Christie” case after the “WAG” moniker given to a group of footballers’ wives and girlfriends, and the renowned author of detective novels in honour of Coleen’s sleuthing.
The judge, Justice Karen Steyn, said Coleen proved her allegation was “substantially true”. She concluded that 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,” Coleen 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,” Coleen said.
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 the trial in May, the court was shown message exchanges between Vardy and Watt, which included derogatory remarks about Coleen and talk of leaking stories. Coleen’s lawyer said Vardy deleted other media files and messages.
Watt’s phone ended up at the bottom of the North Sea after she said she accidentally dropped it over the side of a boat.
“It is likely that Mrs Vardy deliberately deleted her WhatsApp chat with Ms Watt, and that Ms Watt deliberately dropped her phone in the sea,” Steyn said.
The judge found Coleen to be honest but said some of Vardy’s testimony was not credible and there had been “a degree of self-deception on her part regarding the extent to which she was involved”.