Darren Adam 1am - 4am
Rebekah Vardy wins first stage in 'Wagatha Christie' libel case against Coleen Rooney
20 November 2020, 16:11
Coleen Rooney's post accusing Rebekah Vardy of leaking stories about her to the press "clearly identified" the latter as a suspect in her allegation, the High Court has ruled.
In an early win for Mrs Vardy, 38, on Friday, Mr Justice Warby ruled the Instagram post last year had identified her as being "guilty of the serious and consisted breach of trust that she alleges".
Mrs Rooney had accused the wife of Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy of leaking private information to the media after conducting a "sting operation" that saw her dubbed "Wagatha Christie".
She wrote on Instagram in October: "For a few years now someone who I trusted to follow me on my personal Instagram account has been consistently informing The Sun newspaper of my private posts and stories."
The 34-year-old, who is the wife of former England star Wayne Rooney, then said she had blocked everyone apart from an Instagram page belonging to Mrs Vardy from seeing her Instagram stories, and then "posted a series of false stories to see if they made their way into The Sun" over the space of five months.
Mrs Rooney dramatically added: "I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them.
"It's ................ Rebekah Vardy's account."
Mrs Vardy - who is married to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy - has denied the accusations and is suing Mrs Rooney for damages for libel.
In his judgement, Justice Warby said the "natural and ordinary" meaning of the post was that Mrs Vardy had "regularly and frequently abused her status as a trusted follower of Ms Rooney's personal Instagram account by secretly informing The Sun newspaper of Ms Rooney's private posts and stories."
He rejected Mrs Rooney's argument that she had referred to "Rebekah Vardy's account" rather than Mrs Vardy herself, noting it was "a considered post, using wording composed with some care.
"It would be clear to the ordinary reader from the outset that it was meant seriously, and intended to convey a message of some importance.
"I certainly do not think that the ordinary reader would take that single word (account), albeit repeated, to indicate that Mrs Rooney remains in doubt about who the wrongdoer was."
"There is nothing in these words, apart from the word 'account', that in any way suggests that the behaviour of which Mrs Rooney is complaining might have been carried out by anyone other than the account holder, Mrs Vardy."
Mrs Rooney has now been ordered to pay just under £23,000 in costs for the hearing of which Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Mrs Vardy, said he would be seeking as "the losing party pays the costs".
Meanwhile, Mrs Rooney's representation David Sherborne argued that the meanings of the messages pitched by Mrs Vardy and rule upon by Justice Warby would not affect how the case proceeds.
He added: "It is true in either meaning because Mrs Vardy was responsible for the source of those leaks whether herself or through her agent."
Earlier on Thursday, the court heard that both parties had agreed for a "stay" of proceedings until next year, so there could be another attempt to resolve the issue without trial.
Speaking after the ruling, Mrs Rooney's spokesman said: "Today's ruling on the technical legal meaning of the post changes nothing.
"Coleen's defence to this misguided action was filed last month. It sets out clearly the facts of her case, which remain the same irrespective of any decision on the meaning.
"The key issues of the case remain the three stories from Coleen's private Instagram account published by The Sun and Rebekah's relationship with the newspaper, including its 'Secret Wag' column."
The spokesman added: "After three years of stress and anxiety about the leaks from her private social media account, Coleen is keen to see progress made on the real issues, beginning with what Rebekah has to tell the court."