It's....Coleen's victory: Key moments of blockbuster Vardy vs Rooney Wagatha Christie case

29 July 2022, 06:24 | Updated: 29 July 2022, 13:39

A look back at the saga of the Rooney vs Vardy libel battle
A look back at the saga of the Rooney vs Vardy libel battle. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The decision in the "Wagatha Christie" trial will be announced later. Here is how the libel row between footballers' wives Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy reached the High Court in London

September 2017 to October 2019 - The Sun newspaper runs a number of articles about Mrs Rooney, including that she travelled to Mexico to look into baby "gender selection" treatment, her plan to revive her TV career and the flooding of her basement.

October 9 2019 - Mrs Rooney uses social media to accuse Mrs Vardy of selling stories from her private Instagram account to the tabloids.

Mrs Rooney says she spent five months attempting to work out who was sharing information about her and her family based on posts she had made on her personal social media page.

After sharing a series of "false" stories and using a process of elimination, Mrs Rooney claims they were viewed by one Instagram account, belonging to Mrs Vardy.

Mrs Vardy, then pregnant with her fifth child, denies the allegations and says various people had access to her Instagram over the years.

She claims to be "so upset" by Mrs Rooney's accusation, later adding: "I thought she was my friend but she completely annihilated me."

The public dispute makes headlines around the world, with the hashtag #WagathaChristie trending.

February 13 2020 - In a tearful appearance on ITV's Loose Women, Mrs Vardy says the stress of the dispute caused her to have severe anxiety attacks and she "ended up in hospital three times".

Mrs Rooney says in a statement that she does not want to "engage in further public debate".

June 23 2020 - It emerges that Mrs Vardy has launched libel proceedings against Mrs Rooney.

Mrs Vardy's lawyers allege she "suffered extreme distress, hurt, anxiety and embarrassment as a result of the publication of the post and the events which followed".

November 19-20 2020 - The libel battle has its first High Court hearing in London.

A judge rules that Mrs Rooney's October 2019 post "clearly identified" Mrs Vardy as being "guilty of the serious and consistent breach of trust".

Mr Justice Warby concludes that the "natural and ordinary" meaning of the posts was that Mrs Vardy had "regularly and frequently abused her status as a trusted follower of Mrs Rooney's personal Instagram account by secretly informing The Sun of Mrs Rooney's private posts and stories".

February 8-9 2022 - A series of explosive messages between Mrs Vardy and her agent Caroline Watt - which Mrs Rooney's lawyers allege were about her - are revealed at a preliminary court hearing.

The court is told Mrs Vardy was not referring to Mrs Rooney when she called someone a "nasty bitch" in one exchange with Ms Watt.

Mrs Rooney's lawyers seek further information from the WhatsApp messages, but the court is told that Ms Watt's phone fell into the North Sea after a boat she was on hit a wave, before further information could be extracted from it.

February 14 - Mrs Rooney is refused permission to bring a High Court claim against Ms Watt for misuse of private information to be heard alongside the libel battle.

A High Court judge, Mrs Justice Steyn, says the bid was brought too late and previous opportunities to make the claim had not been taken.

April 13 - Ms Watt is not fit to give oral evidence at the upcoming libel trial, the High Court is told as the case returns for another hearing.

The agent revokes permission for her witness statement to be used, and withdraws her waiver which would have allowed Sun journalists to say whether she was a source of the allegedly leaked stories.

April 29 - Mrs Vardy "appears to accept" that her agent was the source of allegedly leaked stories, Mrs Rooney's barrister David Sherborne tells the High Court.

He argues that a new witness statement submitted by Mrs Vardy suggests Ms Watt was the source but Mrs Vardy claims she "did not authorise or condone her".

Mrs Vardy's lawyer Hugh Tomlinson says the statement did not contain "any change whatever in the pleaded case", with her legal team having no communication with Ms Watt.

May 10-19 - Mrs Vardy and Mrs Rooney come face to face in court as the trial of their libel battle takes place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London before Mrs Justice Steyn. Both women give evidence, as revelations from the case make daily headlines across the British press.

May 20 - An agreed 313-page bundle of evidence is released including pictures from Mrs Rooney's Instagram account and screenshots where Mrs Vardy complained to her husband Jamie Vardy that she was being made a "scapegoat" during Euro 2016.

July 29 - Mrs Justice Steyn will give her judgment on the trial.

Key moments in the libel case

Day One

The much-anticipated trial of the 'Wagatha Christie' libel claim begins. Rebekah Vardy arrives at the High Court in London with a security guard, while Coleen Rooney attends with husband Wayne Rooney.

The legal teams representing each of the women set out their cases for Mrs Justice Steyn, the judge hearing the case. Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Mrs Vardy, tells the court she "had no choice" but to bring the libel claim against Coleen Rooney to "establish her innocence and vindicate her reputation", while David Sherborne, representing Mrs Rooney, tells the judge the case is essentially a "detective story" and "like any good detective story, you never find a person standing over the body with a smoking gun".

Mrs Vardy takes her place in the witness box shortly before 4pm and tells the court she "didn't leak anything to anyone". In her witness statement, she says she will "never forgive" Mrs Rooney after she "ruined" the last weeks of her pregnancy by accusing her of leaking private information to the press. She also describes the online abuse she suffered following Mrs Rooney's 'reveal' post, says the impact of the allegation on her and her family has been "traumatic".

The first day of the trial ends with Mr Sherborne dramatically revealing a News Of The World article in which Mrs Vardy talked about a claimed sexual encounter with singer Peter Andre. The barrister reads the headline to the court, saying: "Peter's hung like a small chipolata, shaved, slobbery, lasts five minutes". Mrs Vardy responds by saying she was "forced into a situation" by her ex-husband.

Day Two

As Mrs Vardy's cross examination continues into the second day of the trial, she denies a suggestion that it was "standard practice" for her to leak information to The Sun via her agent, Caroline Watt - who withdrew from the case at an earlier stage on mental health grounds. However, she accepts that some exchanges of messages between her and Ms Watt were "not good".

Mrs Vardy accepts directing Ms Watt to an Instagram post by Mrs Rooney where she talked about having crashed her Honda car, but says she had no knowledge of the agent "monitoring" Mrs Rooney's account.

The model and television personality brands a suggestion she deliberately moved seats at one of the matches during the Euro 2016 tournament to sit behind Mrs Rooney in order to attract more publicity as "ridiculous".

Mr Sherborne holds up a photograph used in an exclusive 2016 interview Mrs Vardy gave The Sun, saying: "You think you might recall these rather large images of you naked in a national newspaper." Mrs Vardy replies that they were her own pictures and weren't taken for the purposes of the article.

Mrs Vardy begins to cry as she was asked about some of the abuse her and her family had received, and she also denies having close relationships with any journalists.

Day Three

Mrs Vardy denies orchestrating a paparazzi photographer to get a picture of the wives and girlfriends of the England players outside a St Petersburg restaurant during the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The court hears further messages between Mrs Vardy and Ms Watt in which they discussed a story about Mrs Rooney's car being involved in a crash and Sun journalist Andy Halls, whose phone number Mrs Vardy previously denied having but later realised she had messaged him via Instagram.

The 40-year-old again breaks down in tears after her barrister complained to the judge about the manner of Mr Sherborne's questioning, and leaves the witness box after the judge grants a short break. A further break is needed a short while later after Mrs Vardy again starts crying under cross-examination and puts her head in her hands on the desk in front of her.

Mrs Vardy is asked about a message Ms Watt sent to her following a 'warning' post Mrs Rooney published in which she said someone she trusted was betraying her by leaking stories. In the message, Ms Watt said: "And 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 ice.

Day Four

Mrs Vardy appears emotional several times on her final day appearing in the witness box, during which she is accused of throwing Ms Watt "under the bus".

The former model tells the court the News Of The World article about her sexual encounter with singer Peter Andre is one of her "biggest regrets".

Mrs Vardy concludes her evidence by claiming she felt "bullied and manipulated" while facing cross-examination.

As Mrs Rooney enters the witness box, she tells the judge her viral "reveal" post was sent as a "last resort" after she previously sent out warnings.

The court hears Mrs Rooney was "surprised" by the interest her post triggered, with her adding: "It's not in my nature to cause abuse or trolling in any way at all."

Mrs Rooney tells the court she was in a "vulnerable situation" following her husband's arrest for drink-driving in September 2017.

She says in written evidence she was "really hurt" by the leak of information from a later private Instagram post featuring Mr Rooney that she did not want to make public amid difficulties in their marriage.

The mother-of-four adds in her written statement that she is glad she "put an end" to Mrs Vardy allegedly leaking other people's information after her bid to catch the person "betraying" her "red-handed".

Day Five

Returning to the witness box, Mrs Rooney tells the High Court she wanted "totally untrue" story about a so-called gender selection procedure to be published as "evidence" for her sting operation to discover the source of leaked stories.

Mrs Rooney claims she suspected Mrs Vardy was the source of a story about herself and her husband securing a babysitter, with the court hearing she alleged to a PR that Mrs Vardy was "fame hungry".

Messages between Mrs Vardy and her agent about Mrs Rooney were "evil and uncalled for", the former England captain's wife tells the court.

Former Football Association family liaison officer Harpreet Robertson provides evidence over two guests of Mrs Vardy allegedly being "rude and abusive" to her during a Euro 2016 match.

Mrs Robertson claims Mrs Vardy's evidence about why she sat behind Mrs Rooney at the England versus Wales game - that Mrs Rooney and family were in her seats and she took the nearest available to avoid a "fuss" - was "simply untrue".

Day Six

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy attends the trial alongside his wife for the first time and hears evidence from Wayne Rooney over an alleged "awkward" conversation with him about Mrs Vardy at the Euro 2016 tournament.

Mr Rooney claims in court he was asked by then England manager Roy Hodgson to speak to Mr Vardy about getting his wife to "calm down", adding in written evidence that the FA considered her media activities were causing "problems and distractions".

The court hears that impact of the period following his wife's "reveal" post had been "traumatic" for her and that Mr Rooney had watch her become "a different mother" and "a different wife".

Experts are also called to give evidence over issues relating to the data from Mrs Vardy's and Mrs Rooney's phones, with Matthew Blackband claiming he believed there was a "high probability" that "manual deletion" explained the loss of messages from Mrs Vardy's device.

Day Seven

Mr and Mrs Rooney are absent for the first time, with their barrister explaining they had a "long-standing travel arrangement with their four children" which was booked when it was thought the trial would finish on Wednesday.

Mrs Vardy arrived alone but left court about 30 minutes after the hearing started.

In closing submissions, Mr Sherborne says the case is "extraordinary" for many reasons, adding that Ms Watt's absence from the case is like "Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark".

Mr Tomlinson tells the court Mrs Rooney's case is "based on Mrs Vardy being party to an extraordinarily elaborate, convoluted and cunning conspiracy to mislead the court".

Mrs Vardy's barrister also says that his client has received abuse from thousands of people on social media, including during the trial itself.

Mrs Justice Steyn indicates that she will give her decision at a later date.

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