On October 9, 2019, a modern-day thriller was blasted out into the world, with celebrities at war, an alleged betrayal, social media traction and perhaps the most famous time-lapses of the last century…
At the heart of the case, wives of footballers Rebecca Vardy and Coleen Rooneywith Vardy suing Rooney for defamation over allegations she made about him online.
With the High Court trial due to start on Tuesday, we explain what’s behind it all.
In a social media post published on October 9, 2019, Coleen Rooney accused Rebekah Vardy of leaking stories about her to the press.
Rooney said she planted a series of fake stories about herself on her personal Instagram account (stories are posts on the social media app that disappear after 24 hours).
She said three stories – about traveling to Mexico to learn more about gender selection, returning to television and flooding the basement of her new home – were all shared with The Sun newspaper.
In a bid to ferret out the culprit, Rooney said she changed privacy settings to make posts visible on only one person’s account – Vardy’s.
Rooney’s Investigative Ruse quickly nicknamed her “Wagatha Christie” on social media – a nod to the famous British novelist Agatha Christie.
In his message revealing the “sting operation”, Rooney wrote: “For the past few years, someone I trusted to follow me on my personal Instagram account has been constantly updating The Sun newspaper about my posts and private stories.
“I have recorded and captured all of the original stories which clearly show that only one person saw them.
“This is the account of ……………. Rebekah Vardy.”
Shortly after Rooney’s public accusation, Vardy – who was heavily pregnant at the time – responded on Instagram, vigorously denying any involvement.
Who are the key players?
Coleen Rooney, 36, is the wife of former England star (and now Derby County manager) Wayne Rooney.
Childhood sweethearts, they met in their home county of Croxteth in Liverpool when they were 12 and started a relationship when they were 16.
Getting married in Portofino, Italy, in the summer of 2008, OK! The magazine reportedly paid £2.5million for exclusive coverage of the wedding.
The couple now live in a £20million mansion in Cheshire and have four sons together, Kai, Klay, Kit and Cass.
Rooney has previously written columns for Closer and OK! Magazine, as well as the presentation and facade of a fitness DVD. She has published several books, including an autobiography and style guides.
Rebekah Vardy, 40, is married to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy.
The couple met in 2014, when Vardy worked as a nightclub promoter.
They tied the knot in May 2016 at Peckforton Castle in Cheshire, with guests including One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson and Kasabian guitarist Sergio Pizzorno.
The couple now live in a mansion in Lincolnshire.
Vardy has five children – Megan and Taylor from previous relationships, and Sofia, Finlay and Olivia Grace with Vardy. She is also stepmother to Jamie’s daughter from a previous relationship, Ella.
Vardy’s father, Carlos Miranda, was born in Madeira, which makes her half Portuguese.
Vardy has previously worked as a model and appeared on various reality shows including I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here and Dancing On Ice. She is also featured on Loose Women and has appeared alongside her husband on Celebrity Gogglebox.
The stories were published in The Sun, a tabloid published by News Group Newspapers Ltd (NGN).
Rooney’s team pointed to Vardy’s close relationship with newspaper reporters, and the court approved a request by Rooney’s team to review communications between Vardy, his agent Caroline Watt and Sun reporter Andrew Halls (who was the author of one of the three articles in question).
A request for disclosure of communications between Vardy, Ms Watt and eight other Sun reporters was denied by the judge.
Despite The Sun’s involvement in the case, Rooney is not suing the paper or the publisher – just Vardy.
Caroline Watt is Rebekah Vardy’s agent and friend.
The WhatsApp messages between the two were discussed in several preliminary hearings, including one in which Vardy appeared to call Rooney a “bad b****”.
Consideration of any further messages was halted after Ms Watt’s phone ‘unfortunately’ fell into the North Sea after a boat she was on hit a wave, shortly after one of the hearings.
Rooney’s lawyers have called Ms Watt a ‘fall boy’ and say she is responsible for the information leak to the Sun, with Vardy’s approval. Vardy’s lawyers oppose it.
Described in written evidence as being in “a fragile condition”, Ms Watt will not speak at trial and has been found to be “unfit” to give oral evidence.
Who else got involved?
Model Danielle Lloyd waded into the argument when responding to Rooney’s original post.
Lloyd posted three rat emojis and a second comment, saying, “On a serious note, who does this is terrible.”
While neither Vardy nor Rooney’s football husbands got directly involved, Jamie Vardy “liked” his wife’s initial rejection tweet.
Vardy’s father, Carlos Miranda, has also been a strong advocate for his daughter, insisting her account must have been hacked.
Why is the case going to court now?
While the social media post that sparked the case was shared in October 2019, news that Vardy would be taking Rooney to court didn’t break until June 2020.
Meanwhile, Vardy gave birth to her daughter Olivia Grace, who is now two and a half years old.
In November 2020, Judge Warby ruled in favor of Vardy continuing the case after the preliminary libel hearing in the High Court. Neither Rooney nor Vardy were in court in person. Rooney was ordered to pay Vardy almost £23,000 in legal costs.
The total legal costs were estimated at over £400,000 each side.
After attempts to mediate the case and after several days of preliminary hearings, the case finally comes to court.
Where is the trial taking place and how long will it last?
The trial, which is taking place at the High Court in London, will begin on Tuesday May 10 and is expected to last six days.
A judgment in the case is expected at a later date.
Follow the trial on Sky News where we will blog live from the courtroom.
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