‘Wagatha Christie’ explained: Everything you need to know about the Rebekah Vardy, Coleen Rooney libel case

It was the trial that captivated the UK, sitting at an intersection between obsessions with celebrity culture, Premier League football and the ancient institutions of British society that no one could have imagined existed. This is the ‘Wagatha Christie’ trial, two and a half years in the making and certain to get its own premium mini-series streaming in much less time.

Rebekah Vardy, wife of former England striker Jamie Vardy, is suing Coleen Rooney, wife of former England striker Wayne Rooney, for defamation. For the truly uninitiated, these are the « WAGs » or « wives and girlfriends » of the Wagatha Christie portmanteau. The utterly modern world of Instagram stories, the ridicule behind each other’s backs on WhatsApp and the outrage that comes with being unfollowed on social media have crumbled in the royal courts. No one can look away.

So how did we get here?

Let’s go back to the heyday of 2019, when coronavirus was indeed a new concept and Wayne Rooney rolled back the years with DC United in MLS. Across the pond, his wife was worried. Someone had leaked stories about him to The Sun newspaper. One might consider it a professional hazard for Coleen Rooney, Wayne’s childhood sweetheart, who has spent more of her life in the tabloid spotlight than out of it, but she was understandably tired of watching her private business splash the limelight. tabloids.

For five months, Rooney carried out what she ended with an « undercover operation », preventing anyone from banning an account from seeing her Instagram stories. From there, she published « a series of fake stories to see if they ended up in the paper. » Lo and behold, she says, some did: a possible appearance on Strictly Come Dancing, a flooded mansion, a trip to Mexico. It was enough. She thought she knew “with certainty” who was responsible. Only three ellipses were enough to express the tension it revealed.

“It’s… Rebekah Vardy’s account. The internet quickly caught fire and Wagatha Christie was born. Vardy has been adamant since she was not on the leak, noting that others had access to her Instagram account, including a PR agency and an advertising agency, and suggesting that if Rooney had been in contact before , she could have changed the password.

Neither side backed down. When the Daily Mail asked Vardy if she had an argument with Rooney, she replied: “It would be like arguing with a pigeon. You can tell her you’re right and it’s wrong, but it’ll still piss you off.  » Hair. »

In that same interview, she added, “I think it goes beyond an apology, doesn’t it? »

Lawyers get involved

In July 2020, Vardy filed a libel suit against Rooney, alleging that the allegations against her caused « extreme distress, injury, anxiety and embarrassment ». At a preliminary hearing in November 2020, Judge Mark Warby found that Rooney’s statement that the leak was « Rebekah Vardy’s story » was a direct charge against the 40-year-old.

Both sides racked up their costs in subsequent hearings, ending this week in the High Court as both sides refused to agree to a settlement that would have saved them money. For Vardy, his lawyers said 18 months ago, it’s about « vindicate[ing] his reputation. »

The latest news from the trial

On Thursday, Vardy underwent her third day of cross-examination as Rooney’s attorney, David Sherborne, attempted to prove she was personally responsible for the leaked stories. English libel law requires Rooney to prove that it was precisely Vardy who leaked the stories or convince the judge, Judge Karen Steyn, that disclosing it was in the public interest.

With much of Vardy’s communications history with his agent Caroline Watt missing (more on that later), Rooney’s team suggested she was lying about the extent of her relationship with the press. Vardy admitted she tried to leak a story about her husband’s Leicester team-mate Danny Drinkwater being arrested for drunk driving, but she insisted it was a one-off.

Anadolu Agency

Rooney’s lawyers also questioned her about a 2004 interview she gave to the News of the World in which she revealed that pop star Peter Andre was « going up like a little chipolata », she comments « regrets deeply”. They also suggested that Vardy asked his agent Caroline Watt to leak stories about another then Leicester, now Manchester City player, Riyad Mahrez, having missed training.

Messages exchanged between the pair showed Watt suggesting they leak the story to a Sky Sports reporter, with Vardy replying that she didn’t want it « to come back to me ». When Watt said, « I can tell somebody, » Vardy said, « do it. »

Vardy said she « chatted about things that were already in the public domain. » Watt, meanwhile, was found to be in poor health to testify.

Davy Jones’ missing phone and locker

Sherbourne said it was unclear whether Watt actually leaked the news, as his phone now lies at the bottom of the North Sea. As Rooney’s lawyer said, last summer the « poor unfortunate phone » belonging to Vardy’s agent fell overboard « a few days » after his team asked to examine it.

Meanwhile, Vardy herself is unable to access her WhatsApp messages after a computer expert tasked with backing them up lost the password. Her husband Jamie Vardy’s WhatsApp was also hacked.

Sherbourne alleged in written submissions that Vardy and his team engaged in a « deliberate and calculated » effort to eliminate the evidence. Vardy’s lawyers, led by Hugh Tomlinson, called the claim « completely baseless ». “There is no such suppression campaign,” they said. “The reason why there is no direct evidence against Ms Vardy is because she did not. »

What do you eat next?

The trial entered the third of seven days on Thursday, with Rooney due to testify next. Her husband Wayne could also speak before Steyn delivers his verdict.

For the winner, his heavy bill will at least be accompanied by a part of justification. Whoever fails will only have his attorneys’ fees for company.

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