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Coleen Rooney hits back in latest Wagatha Christie row and says she gave Rebekah Vardy extra time to foot £2m legal bill
20 June 2023, 06:04 | Updated: 20 June 2023, 06:06
Coleen Rooney has hit back at Rebekah Vardy after she was said to be "furious" about paying her Wagatha Christie opponent's "inflated" multi-million pound legal fees.
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Mrs Vardy, 41, lost her libel claim against Mrs Rooney, 37, last July when the High Court ruled that Mrs Rooney's viral post accusing Mrs Vardy of leaking private information to the press was "substantially true".
The judge ruled that Mrs Vardy should pay 90 per cent of Mrs Rooney's costs - which now amounts to £1.8 million - £500,000 above the original estimate.
Mrs Vardy hired a legal team to get a breakdown - and they believe the £1.8 million figure includes inflated costs.
Paul Lunt, the solicitor who acted for Mrs Rooney, said: "Costs budgets are produced at the very start of cases, almost two years before the final hearing in this case. They are merely 'best guesses' of the costs that are likely to be incurred if the case proceeds as expected.
He told the Mail Online: "Where a case develops in an extraordinary or unexpected manner, the costs will often increase substantially from what was originally envisaged.
"That goes for both parties and it would not surprise me if Mrs Vardy's own costs ended up approaching something in the order of £4m."
Mrs Rooney's legal team said that Mrs Vardy did not make an interim payment on time, and the wife of former England captain Wayne could have instructed bailiffs to retrieve the money she was owed. Instead she gave Mrs Vardy extra time to pay, the lawyers said.
The breakdown of legal costs that enraged Mrs Vardy includes a 5-star stay for a lawyer at the luxury Nobu hotel in Mayfair stay, which came to nearly £2,000 - a as well as a £225 bill for mini bar, breakfast and lounge drinks. Other items included a £6,000 bill for briefing the media.
A source told the Sun on Monday: "Becky was furious after seeing Coleen’s bill and hired a legal team to push back. To her, it’s war.
"In court Coleen’s costs were budgeted at just over £500,000 and Becky thinks she’s pushing her luck by asking for almost £2million.
"Her legal team has said that some of the costs appear to have been inflated.
"They went back to Coleen’s team and asked for a detailed breakdown of some of the points.”
Rebekah Vardy had more money than sense in Wagatha trial
The source continued: "Becky has been given paperwork as part of the bill which shows how much Coleen’s team budgeted – and how much they are charging. David Sherborne, for example, had budgeted costs of £299,000 but they have billed for £524,000.
"And one of the experts who spoke at the trial, the court budgeted just over £32,000 for them but the final bill is over £148,000 – that is an increase of 359 per cent.
"There is also a £6,000 fee on the bill for briefing the Press and preparing press releases."
Mrs Rooney's team has not responded to some of the points, meaning the pair could even face off again in court over the legal bill. The source added: "As far as Becky is concerned, she will fight to get this sorted. Becky has pushed her team to try to finish the job so she can pay what she rightfully owes and she can get on with her life."
Mr Lunt said last year that the high costs were because Mrs Vardy "deliberately deleted or destroyed evidence".
"The High Court has today decided that Rebekah Vardy must pay Coleen Rooney's legal costs on an indemnity basis - the highest basis that the court could order," he said.
"The reasoning given for this decision is that there was a finding at trial that Rebekah Vardy had deliberately deleted or destroyed evidence.
"That behaviour falls outside the ordinary and reasonable conduct expected of a party in legal proceedings.
"This followed a separate finding regarding the loss of evidence that was in the possession of Rebekah Vardy's former agent, Caroline Watt.
"Coleen's pursuit of that evidence is a major reason why her legal costs increased substantially from the original estimates given to the court long before the start of the trial.
"Rebekah Vardy has been ordered to pay £800,000 to Coleen Rooney by November 15 as an interim payment until the final total she must pay is either agreed or decided upon by the court.
"Naturally, Rebekah will also be responsible for her own legal costs of bringing her failed libel action against Coleen."
The origins of 'Wagatha Christie' go all the way back to 2017, when The Sun newspaper ran a number of private stories about Mrs Rooney.
Over the next two years the wife of Wayne Rooney claimed she shared a number of false stories on her personal Instagram account and monitored who had seen them.
When those stories appeared in the press she then said she used a process of elimination to determine who must be leaking them.
Wagatha Christie trial 'fairly standard' process says barrister
In a dramatic post she announced Mrs Vardy was the only person who could have leaked them, pinning the blame squarely on her.
Mrs Vardy, then pregnant with her fifth child, denied the allegations, saying lots of people had access to her Instagram account and so could have seen Mrs Rooney's posts.
She claimed the stress of the dispute caused her anxiety attacks, and in June 2020 it emerged she had launched libel proceedings against Mrs Rooney.
So began a high-profile court battle that made headlines around the world.
The week-long trial saw tears, denials and explosive revelations about the links between Mrs Vardy, her agent and tabloid journalists.
Messages between Mrs Vardy and Caroline Watt appeared to show her organising for a paparazzi photographer to get a picture of the wives and girlfriends outside a restaurant during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, as well as passing on information about Mrs Rooney's car crash.
A message also showed Ms Watt outright admitting to Mrs Vardy that she was leaking stories to the press about Mrs Rooney.
After a post from Mrs Rooney saying someone she trusted was leaking stories, Mr Watt wrote to Mrs Vardy: "It wasn't someone she trusted, it was me."
Asked why she didn't challenge her agent, Mrs Vardy replies that she was bathing her children and watching Dancing On Ice, so later continued gossiping with Ms Watt about Gemma Collins faceplanting on the show.