After months of legal wrangling, the much anticipated “Wagatha Christie” High Court libel trial is set to begin.
Here is how the public row between footballers’ wives Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy unfolded over the past two and a half years:
– 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.