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Devastated Rebekah Vardy hits out after Wagatha Christie verdict: 'Judge got it wrong'
29 July 2022, 12:04 | Updated: 29 July 2022, 15:09
- Rebekah Vardy sensationally loses blockbuster 'Wagatha Christie' libel case
- Coleen Rooney accused her of leaking fake stories to the press after months-long online 'sting'
- Rooney posted images on her private instagram that later ended up in The Sun
- Rebekah sued Coleen claiming it wasn’t true but the judge found she did leak the stories, along with her agent Caroline Watt
Coleen Rooney has won the blockbuster 'Wagatha Christie' libel trial against Rebekah Vardy after a judge ruled she was 'actively engaged' in leaking private Instagram stories about her fellow WAG to the press.
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Mrs Vardy sued Mrs Rooney, who had accused her of leaking "false stories" to the press, following the explosive online sting over several months, orchestrated by Coleen.
The judge found Vardy did leak the private story and that it was "likely" that Mrs Vardy's agent at the time, Caroline Watt, "undertook the direct act" of passing the information to the Sun.
The judge found:
- Vardy knew of and condoned the fact her agent at the time was leaking stories
- Vardy 'actively engaged' in the behaviour, sending her agent screenshots of private Instagram posts
- Vardy also helped with queries about the stories when questions were raised by media
Mrs Justice Steyn said: "The evidence... clearly shows, in my view, that Mrs Vardy knew of and condoned this behaviour, actively engaging in it by directing Ms Watt to the private Instagram account, sending her screenshots of Mrs Rooney's posts, drawing attention to items of potential interest to the press, and answering additional queries raised by the press via Ms Watt.
The judge added: "In my judgment, the conclusions that I have reached as to the extent to which the claimant engaged in disclosing to The Sun information to which she only had access as a permitted follower of an Instagram account which she knew, and Mrs Rooney repeatedly asserted, was private, suffice to show the single meaning is substantially true."
Read the ruling in full here
In response to the verdict, Mrs Rooney said in a statement: "Naturally, I am pleased the judge has found in my favour in her judgement today.
"It was not a case I ever sought or wanted.
"I never believed it should have gone to court at such expense in times of hardship for so many people when the money could have been far better spent helping others.
"Both before and after my social media posts in October 2019, I made constant efforts to avoid the need for such a public and drawn out court case.
"But all my efforts to do so were knocked back by Mrs Vardy and her lawyers.
"This left me with no alternative but to go through with the case to defend myself and to end the repeated leaking of my private information to the Sun."
Meanwhile, Mrs Vardy said she was "sad and disappointed" by the verdict.
"I am extremely sad and disappointed at the decision that the Judge has reached. It is not the result that I had expected, nor believe was just. I brought this action to vindicate my reputation and am devastated by the Judge’s finding," she said.
"The judge accepted that publication of Coleen’s Post was not in the ‘public interest’ and she also rejected her claim that I was the ‘Secret Wag’. But as for the rest of her judgement, she got it wrong and this is something I cannot accept.
"As I explained in my evidence I, my family and even my unborn baby, were subjected to disgusting messages and vile abuse following Coleen’s Post and these have continued even during the course of the trial.
"Please can the people who have been abusing me and my family now stop. The case is over.
"I want to thank everyone who has supported me."
It added: "The leaks from my private Instagram account began in 2017. They continued for almost two years, intruding on my privacy and that of my family.
"Although I bear Mrs Vardy no ill will, today’s judgement makes clear that I was right in what I said in my Instagram posts.
"Finally, I would to thank all of my legal team, my family and friends and everyone who has supported me - including the public - through this difficult and stressful time."
Mrs Justice Steyn said that Rebekah Vardy had faced "vile abuse" from members of the public following Coleen Rooney's post.
She said: "Some members of the public have responded to the reveal post by subjecting Mrs Vardy to vile abuse, including messages wishing her, her family, and even her then-unborn baby, ill in the most awful terms.
"Nothing of which Mrs Vardy has been accused, nor any of the findings in this judgment, provide any justification or excuse for subjecting her or her family, or any other person involved in this case, to such vitriol."
Mrs Vardy is expected to be saddled with a legal bill of nearly £3m after the judge ruled against her.
The highly-anticipated verdict was kept under wraps from the two over concerns the ruling could be leaked early, according to the Sun.
Mrs Justice Steyn said that Rebekah Vardy chose not to call her agent Caroline Watt to give evidence partly because she knew her evidence "would be shown to be untrue".
Ms Watt had been due to give evidence in support of Mrs Vardy but withdrew her evidence pre-trial, with the court told it was due to health concerns.
The judge said: "I accept that her health has been adversely affected by these proceedings.
"In part, no doubt, that is because she is not someone who has previously been, or ever sought to be, in the public eye, and being a key witness in a trial of this nature would have been uncomfortable even if she had nothing to hide.
"However, I am compelled to the conclusion that the primary reason Ms Watt was so very reluctant to give evidence, and has suffered adversely from the pressure to do so, was that she knew that to a large extent the evidence in her statements was untrue.
"In my view, the claimant's decision not to seek to call Ms Watt, against her will, was motivated, to a substantial degree, by concern for her friend's welfare.
"But in the circumstances, I also draw the inference that Mrs Vardy chose not to call Ms Watt because she knew that when tested in cross-examination her evidence would be shown to be untrue, and that it would have been highly likely to have undermined the claimant's case that she had no involvement in disclosing information from the private Instagram account."
When addressing the loss of Caroline Watt's phone as evidence, Mrs Justice Steyn said the chances of it being accidental was "slim" and that it was "likely" she deliberately dropped her phone into the sea.
Rebekah Vardy's agent and friend said her phone fell into the North Sea while she was filming the Scottish coastline in August 2021.
The judge continued: "It is likely that the WhatsApp chat between herself and Mrs Vardy, as well as exchanges with journalists, was available on Ms Watt's phone when she was advised very shortly after the reveal post that such evidence must be preserved."
Mrs Justice Steyn added: "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."
In a viral social media post from October 2019, Mrs Rooney, 36, said she had carried out a "sting operation" and accused Mrs Vardy, 40, of leaking the "false stories" about her private life.
The wife of former England star Wayne Rooney publicly claimed Mrs Vardy's account was the source behind three fake stories she had posted on her private Instagram account.
Read the ruling summary here
Mrs Vardy, who is married to Leicester striker Jamie Vardy, denied leaking the stories and sued her fellow footballer's wife for libel, while Mrs Rooney defended the claim on the basis her post was "substantially true".
Over seven days at the Royal Courts of Justice in May, the pair gave evidence as revelations from the case transfixed the nation.
During the trial, Mrs Rooney's barrister David Sherborne argued that Mrs Vardy had a "habitual and established practice" of leaking information about those she knew - through her friend and former agent Caroline Watt - to the Sun newspaper.
Discussing Mrs Rooney's viral "reveal" post, her barrister added: "It is what she believed at the time... and it is what she believes even more so now that we have got to the end of the case."
However, Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Mrs Vardy, said Mrs Rooney had "failed to produce any evidence" that Mrs Vardy had "regularly and frequently abused her status as a trusted follower" of her private Instagram account by passing on information.
Mr Tomlinson said the libel battle was a "very simple case" when "one clears away the conspiracy theories".
He added: "Mrs Vardy's case is and always has been that she did not leak the information nor did she authorise anyone else to leak.
"She does not know to this day what happened. She does not know where this information came from."
This story is being updated