Rebekah Vardy has lost her Wagatha Christie case against Coleen Rooney.
Vardy attempted to sue her fellow WAG for defamation, but a High Court judge has ruled that Rooney’s Instagram post outing Vardy for leaking stories to The Sun newspaper was true.
Vardy said Judge Justice Steyn “got it wrong” with her ruling, adding that “it is not the result that I had expected, nor believe was just”.
But she added that she would not appeal as “the case is over”.
Rooney said she was “pleased” the judge had found in her favour, adding: “It was not a case I ever sought or wanted”.
Alluding to what she called a “difficult and stressful time” throughout the trial, she concluded: “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”.
The court found that the essence of Rooney’s social media post was “substantially true” – that’s to say Vardy was responsible for leaking Rooney’s private information to the press.
In her verdict, Judge Steyn described Vardy’s evidence in the libel trial as “manifestly inconsistent… evasive or implausible” – while Rooney’s evidence was “honest and reliable”.
In her conclusion, the judge said: “I have found that Ms Vardy was party to the disclosure to The Sun… Ms Vardy knew of and condoned this behaviour, actively engaging in it by directing Ms Watt to the private Instagram account, sending her screenshots of Ms Rooney’s posts, drawing attention to items of potential interest to the press, and answering additional queries raised by the press via Ms Watt.”
Caroline Watt was Vardy’s agent and friend, and had been implicated in the leaking of the private posts during evidence heard in court. She did not give evidence during the hearing.
Although the judge labelled the information within Rooney’s leaked posts as “trivial”, she said the content “does not need to be confidential or important to meet the sting of the libel.”
Despite the court finding that Rooney’s reveal post “was on a matter of public interest”, the judge ruled that it couldn’t be used as part of her defence because she did not take “steps to put the allegation to Ms Vardy and give her an opportunity to respond”.
Addressing what was referred to during the trial as “a series of unfortunate incidents” – which involved a broken laptop, forgotten passwords and lost data – Mrs Justice Steyn said: “In my judgment, 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”.
The court praised Rooney’s evidence as “honest and reliable”, but said Vardy’s evidence was “manifestly inconsistent… evasive or implausible”.
Mrs Justice Steyn said: “Ms Vardy was generally unwilling to make factual concessions, however implausible her evidence.”
While the judge found that Vardy had disclosed private information, she said she believed Vardy had felt “genuinely offended” by Rooney’s accusation, employing “a degree of self-deception” to minimise her role in the leak.
Former WAG Lizzie Cundy, Rooney’s friend, told Sky News she “wasn’t surprised” by the outcome and knew Rooney – who she described as “an honest girl” – would only have made the original reveal post if she was “100% sure it was correct”.
She said when the spat first began she’d even suggested to Rooney and Vardy that they, “Come over and have some prosecco and nuts and sort this out”, adding, “Now Rebekah will be thinking, ‘I should have listened'”.
Rooney initially accused Vardy of leaking “false stories” to the media in 2019, and the high-profile trial took place in May.
The wife of former England star Wayne Rooney was dubbed “Wagatha Christie” after claiming that three fake stories posted on her personal Instagram page – which unbeknown to Vardy at the time were shared only with her account – were passed on to The Sun newspaper.
In written submissions to the court during the trial, Vardy’s barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC argued that while the case had been trivialised as “WAG Wars” it had had a “very profound” impact on his client’s life, leading to “high intensity abuse and vilification”.
The 40-year-old suffered “immense distress” as a result of Rooney’s allegations and “had no choice” but to take her to court “to establish her innocence and vindicate her reputation”, Mr Tomlinson said.
However, in the written argument for Rooney, 36, barrister David Sherborne said his client felt “absolutely confident” in the investigation she conducted to find the source of the leaks and that her “authentication was as thorough as many newsrooms”.
What were the key legal issues in the case?
A libel is a published statement which is defamatory – damaging to a person’s reputation.
Vardy said she had suffered “very serious harm to her reputation” as a result of Rooney’s allegations and therefore brought the case to court to defend herself.
Rooney defended the claim on the basis it was true and in the public interest for her to publish it. Under English defamation law it was Rooney who had to prove her post was “substantially true”.
As this was a civil case, not a criminal one, the standard of proof was “on the balance of probabilities”, or “more likely than not”, rather than “beyond reasonable doubt”.
There is an upper limit of damages in libel actions in the UK of about £300,000, with the amount awarded depending on a number of factors – including the level of reputational damage and the prevalence of the published libel. However, any damages are usually swallowed up by legal costs.
At a hearing in March 2022, it was revealed that Vardy had a costs budget of nearly £900,000, while Rooney’s costs were estimated to be about £400,000.
However, it is believed the case exceeded those budgets.