Well, it’s official: Coleen Rooney has won. Ten weeks after the court case that captured the nation’s attention, the WAGatha Christie trial has concluded with Justice Steyn issuing her ruling on July 29. The all important ruling? That Rebekah Vardy’s libel claim against Coleen Rooney had failed, as Rooney had established her defence – on the basis of truth and public interest – in an "honest and reliable" way, while Vardy's evidence was "manifestly inconsistent... evasive or implausible," as reported by the BBC.
In her conclusion, the judge said: "I have found that Ms Vardy was party to the disclosure to The Sun... Ms Vardy knew of and condoned this behaviour, actively engaging in it by directing Ms Watt to the Private Instagram Account, sending her screenshots of Ms Rooney's posts, drawing attention to items of potential interest to the press, and answering additional queries raised by the press via Ms Watt."
Mrs Justice Steyn added that the “vile abuse” Vardy had faced (and will likely face anew new, are entirely without justification though. 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."
When Rooney publicly accused Vardy of selling stories about her to the press back in October 2019, she sent the internet into a tailspin. Via a bombshell social media statement, Rooney, 33, ignited the now infamous "WAGatha Christie" debate with four simple words and a supersized ellipsis: "It's ..........Rebekah Vardy's account." Despite the media furore, Vardy has vehemently denied all accusations and, in June 2020, the WAGatha Christie feud officially reached the courts, with the High Court trial taking place across six days in May 2022.
Below, find the full timeline of the WAGatha Christie trial, from that infamous post to the all important final verdict.
October 2019: The Post
The scandal first came to light when Rooney claimed to have set a trap to discover who was leaking the private information she shared among friends and family on a closed Instagram account. "After a long time of trying to figure out who it could be, for various reasons, I had a suspicion,” she wrote.
Rooney said she had planted fake stories about her life via a private Instagram account and "blocked everyone from viewing [her] Instagram stories except ONE account." She then claimed that person was Vardy.
The caption read "This has been a burden in my life for a few years now and finally I have got to the bottom of it......"
Within a matter of days, the post had amassed hundreds of thousands of likes and comments and had made national headlines.
In response to Rooney's claims, Vardy wrote: "I'm not being funny but I don't need the money, what would I gain from selling stories on you?” She added: "I liked you a lot Coleen & I'm so upset that you have chosen to do this."
The mum of five later revealed she was taken to hospital three times while pregnant as she suffered anxiety attacks over the spat, reports The Sun.
May 2020: Arbitration Meeting Fails
In May, The Sun reported that the two women and their legal teams attempted to sort the issue out via a Zoom arbitration meeting, but things ended in "deadlock."
June 2020: Libel Case Is Launched
With no resolution, the case was taken to London's High Court after Vardy launched libel proceedings against Rooney in June.
November 2020: Preliminary Hearing Begins
The court case started on Nov. 19 with a preliminary hearing. During the hearing, Justice Warby, who is presiding over the case, was asked to determine the “natural and ordinary” meaning of Rooney’s Instagram posts, which accused Vardy of leaking stories.
Vardy’s lawyers argued that the meaning was that she had “consistently and repeatedly betrayed the defendant’s trust over several years by leaking the defendant’s private and personal Instagram posts and stories for publication in The Sun."
Vardy's lawyers also stated that, as a result of Rooney’s posts, their client experienced so much stress she feared she would lose her baby, and that she continued "to suffer severe and extreme hostility and abuse as a result of the post," especially on social media.
Rooney’s team argued that Vardy "was in fact responsible for consistently passing on information about the defendant’s private Instagram posts and stories to The Sun."
Rooney also alleged "this was part of the [Vardy’s] established history and habitual practice of providing private information to journalists and the press."
During the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, Justice Warby ruled in favour of Vardy. He said that Rooney's post in October 2019 had directed guilt at Vardy, meaning her and her legal team would need to prove that it was in fact Vardy who was leaking stories to the press.
December 2020: The Paparazzi Accusation
The case became more complex on Dec. 13 when court documents revealed that Rooney was accusing Vardy of setting up paparazzi photos with other WAGs for money.
Legal papers sent to the High Court said that Vardy “insisted” that the other wives and girlfriends of some of England’s 2018 World Cup team had pictures taken outside a restaurant in St Petersburg. Rooney alleged that Vardy “worked with a number of agencies to bolster her public persona.” Vardy denied this.
January 2021: Rooney's 'Investigation' Under Scrutiny
On Jan. 2, 2021, there was another development, with Vardy’s lawyers claiming Rooney did not write the sensationalist post alone.
Per The Sun, new legal papers claim Rooney had help from "third parties" including lawyers who looked over “various drafts” before they were posted to her social media channels.
"It is inferred that the defendant had assistance from third parties in preparing the post and that various drafts were prepared in advance," reads the document, via The Sun.
Vardy’s legal team also questioned whether Rooney’s investigation was thorough and if she considered the leaks came from her own entourage or her husband's entourage before she made the allegations public.
They added: "The defendant’s ‘careful investigation’ lasted for five weeks and one day, not the five months referred to in the post and did not involve any investigation into other sources of the 'leaks.'"
They also argue that Rooney "reached a (false) conclusion" on a "flawed investigation," adding that the defendant |rushed to publication without properly considering the evidence or making any further inquiry."
July 2021: Vardy & Rooney Battle It Out
And so the bitter legal battle raged on. Rebecca Vardy’s legal team have successfully argued for certain aspects of Coleen Rooney’s defence to be ruled out after they were deemed “irrelevant”.
The judge dismissed Rooney’s claim that Vardy was “publicity seeking” when choosing to sit behind Rooney during the 2016 European Championships game “to guarantee her appearance in the media”. Per The Evening Standard, Mrs Justice Steyn said that “the fact that a person seeks media coverage of their own attendance at a football match” does not mean that they are more likely to “disclose private information about another person to the press.”
Rebekah Vardy's lawyers previously argued that the authorship of the Sun's column, The Secret Wag, was not relevant to the trial. And while Mrs Justice Steyn threw out an allegation that Vardy was leaking information on the libel case itself to the newspaper, she ruled that the alleged close relationship between Vardy and the newspaper will still be considered as was "one of the building blocks" of Coleen Rooney's case. (Rooney’s lawyers argue that it shows a "history and practice of publicly disclosing private information about other people she was friendly or associated with," per BBC News.)
Meanwhile Vardy’s legal team, per Evening Standard, argued Rooney “has gone through the claimant’s appearances in the newspapers, put two and two together and made seven.” Vardy's bid for a summary judgment – a legal step which would effectively resolve the case without the need for a trial – was also dismissed.
Vardy was ordered to pay £10,500 towards her rival’s legal fees on Jul.15, 2021.
July 2021: Throwing Shade On Social Media (Again)
In the meantime however, both women have been involved in making social media comments that some have perceived as digs against one another. Days after Vardy was ordered to pay the £10k legal fee, she appeared to call out Rooney on Instagram. Posting about a recent trip to the zoo she took, in which she agreed to let photos be taken with her children, Vardy wrote:
“I got invited by @zsllondonzoo to come and spend the day with my kids in return for some pictures which of course I didn’t mind doing! Businesses like this thrive off PR especially after the couple of years we have had with COVID.
“I don’t lie about set up pictures (unlike some) everyone does it…. and just for anyone wondering I didn’t make any financial gain off any of the pictures taken.”
A friend then wrote: “Yes Bex I saw this and thought exactly the same,” to which Vardy responded “Maybe I should start doing fake coffee run pics,” which is thought to be in reference to Rooney, who is often spotted grabbing a coffee from high street chains.
Unfortunately the comment did not go down well, with Rooney later taking to Twitter to write “AS IF!!!” along with three emojis: a coffee cup, a running lady, and a laughing face.
August 2021: Jamie Vardy’s Phone Comes Into Question
During a hearing on Aug. 4, Judge Roger Eastman ruled that Jamie Vardy’s phone and computer “can be inspected” as part of the trial. This comes after the court previously heard that Vardy’s assistant Caroline Watt, Jamie, and his social media manager had access to her Instagram account.
As Eastman concluded, “it seems to me at least they and their devices are, for the purposes of disclosure, within her possessions and control.”
This ruling will also be applied to Rooney, as “both women will be using experts to analyse the Instagram data” on devices that have access to their social media accounts. Instagram experts will specifically be brought in to “explore what has gone on,” as Eastman explained.
February 2022: Rebecca Vardy’s Private Texts Read Aloud In Court
At the start of a two-day hearing on Tuesday (Feb. 8), the High Court heard that WhatsApp messages between Vardy and her agent, Caroline Watt, had been disclosed ahead of the trial. In an exchange between Vardy and Watt, Vardy said she would “love” to leak stories from Rooney’s private Instagram account to the press, according to messages disclosed at the high court.
Vardy and Watt had discussed a post on Rooney’s private Instagram in which her car had been damaged. Vardy told her agent she “would love to leak those stories”, the disclosed messages revealed. The court filings also showed that Vardy described Rooney as a “nasty b*tch” who “needs to get over herself,” and that on the day Rooney accused Vardy of leaking stories in a Twitter post, Vardy sent a message to her agent, stating: “That’s war.”
Messages disclosed in court findings also revealed that Vardy and her agent had raised concerns that Rooney suspected Vardy of leaking the stories, and it was suggested that if any issues were raised they would claim that “one of the girls in the office has my old laptop that had your passwords saved on it, so it will have been them”.
April 2022: Rebecca Vardy’s Agent Is Deemed Not Fit For Trial
On Apr. 13, the High Court was informed that Vardy’s agent Caroline Watt is not fit for trial. Revoking permission for her witness statement to be used in trial, Watt also withdrew a waiver that would have allowed The Sun to allege whether she was the source of the leaks.
Further tech issues regarding Vardy’s WhatsApp were revealed following a further request to disclose messages by Rooney’s team. As the Guardian reports, an IT expert had reportedly “forgotten the password which he used to encrypt the material,” which will impact Rooney’s team as they make their case. The judge also ordered The Sun to disclose further communications between Vardy, Watt, and journalist Andy Halls to both legal teams, deeming it “necessary” and “important”.
Two weeks later, Rebekah Vardy’s legal team issued a statement that she accepts “the likelihood that her publicist had leaked the Rooney stories – but without, she maintained, any authorisation from herself.” Despite this revelation, Rooney’s lawyers still have to prove whether Vardy was a “conduit” for the leaked stories appearing in tabloids, specifically The Sun.
May 2022: The Libel Trial
The WAGatha Christie trial began May 10 at courtroom number 13 London’s Royal Courts of Justice. Presided over by Mrs Justice Steyn, the trial lasted six days, with David Sherborne QC representing Rooney, and Hugh Tomlinson QC outlining Vary’s case. The trial’s many twist and turns – pigeons, chipolatas, and the curious case of the missing mobile – captured the nation, and spurred on more than its fair share of memes in the process. The camp climax came with closing statements, which no doubt will feature prominently in the Channel 4 court drama.
July 2022: Verdict
On Friday, July 29, Mrs Justice Steyn ruled that Vardy’s libel claim had failed, meaning the court ruled in favour of Rooney.
Contributions from L'Oréal Blackett, Alice Broster, Rebecca Fearn, Sophie McEvoy, Orla Pentelow, Sam Ramsden, & Shahed Ezaydi.
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