“WAGatha Christie“ libel trial verdict due
Coleen Rooney, the wife of former England soccer captain Wayne, and Rebekah Vardy, the spouse of one of his ex-teammates, will discover who has come out on top in their high-profile libel tussle, a battle that has gripped the public and the media.
Vardy, 40, sued Rooney over an accusation she had leaked details of her private life to the press. It came after Rooney had staged an elaborate sting operation to find out who was passing on stories about her private life to the Sun tabloid.
The legal feud has been dubbed 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, in honour of Rooney’s amateur sleuthing.
Their courtroom bust-up has attracted similar level of fascination and media attention to any of their husbands’ soccer games.
Wayne Rooney holds the record for the most international goals for his country, while Rebekah 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 — Coleen 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 less flattering aspects of the lives of rich and famous soccer stars and their families.
The intrigue began almost three years ago when Rooney became suspicious about stories appearing in the Sun tabloid involving information she had put on her personal Instagram account. She turned detective to try to find out who the culprit was.
She said she blocked everyone from viewing her account except one person and then posted a series of false stories to see whether they leaked out, which she said they had.
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,” Vardy told the High Court in London during hearings in May.
Vardy, who says the result of Rooney’s public outing was that she and her family had received abuse and threats, has accepted that her agent Caroline Watt might be responsible for the leaks, but denies instructing her to do so.
The court was shown message exchanges she had with Watt, which included some derogatory remarks about Rooney, while Rooney’s lawyer says Vardy had deleted other media files and WhatsApp messages.
Meanwhile Watt’s phone ended up at the bottom of the North Sea after she accidentally dropped it over the side of a boat.
“Like any good detective story, you never find the person responsible standing over the body with the smoking gun in her hand,” David Sherborne, Rooney’s lawyer, told the court.
The judge, Justice Karen Steyn, is due to hand down her ruling at 1100 GMT, with newspapers, who say the case will have cost both women millions in legal fees, reporting neither party would be given the verdict in advance in case it leaked out.