Wagatha Christie trial: The eight biggest takeaways from Rooney and Vardy's first week in court

Rebekah Vardy is suing Coleen Rooney wife for libel. Credit: PA
  • By Multimedia Producer Elisa Menendez

The High Court legal battle between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy, dubbed the "Wagatha Christie" case, got underway last week in one of the most high-profile UK libel trials seen in recent years.

It's been three-and-a-half years since Mrs Rooney, wife of former England striker Wayne Rooney, publicly accused "Rebekah Vardy's account" of leaking stories about her private life to the press.

So what were the key takeaways from last week, as the court case enters its second week?

Why are the footballers' wives in court?

In a now-viral social media post in October 2019, Mrs Rooney, 36, said she had carried out a "sting operation" and made up a series of false stories - only allowing Mrs Vardy's (wife of Leicester City and former England striker Jamie Vardy) Instagram account to see them - then waited to see if they would appear in The Sun newspaper.

Mrs Rooney claims three false stories she posted on her Instagram stories, that only Mrs Vardy's account could see, later appeared in the tabloid. One was about her travelling to Mexico to look into baby “gender selection” treatment, another about her plans to revive her TV career, and one about her basement flooding.

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Mrs Vardy, 40, denies leaking stories to the media and is suing her fellow footballer’s wife for libel, while Mrs Rooney is defending the claim on the basis her post was “substantially true”.

Both women have spent “hundreds of thousands of pounds” on the case so far, with the total costs of the case expected to be at least £2 million, the court heard.

The first week of the trial has made headlines daily with bombshell revelations - here are the eight biggest takeaways.

Peter Andre

On the first day of the trial, Mrs Vardy was asked about a News of The World interview she gave in 2004 about a purported sexual encounter with singer Peter Andre, which ridiculed the alleged size of his genitalia.

Mrs Rooney's barrister, David Sherborne, showed what appeared to an A3 print out of the article to Mrs Vardy in the witness box before reading the headline that compared his genitalia to a "chipolata".

Peter Andre (pictured with wife Emily MacDonagh) said the allegations have followed him for 15 years. Credit: PA

The barrister read excerpts from the article, in which it was claimed Mr Andre had “the smallest trouser equipment" Mrs Vardy had "ever seen”.

Mrs Vardy said she was “forced” by her ex-husband to do the "shameful" interview and it is "one of my biggest regrets", adding: "There’s a lot of things in there that did not come out of my mouth that were misrepresented."

She said: “I was forced into a situation by my ex-husband to do this. It is something that I deeply regret… It is not nice to read and I understand why this is being used and to me this is mudslinging and I was also threatened with mudslinging by Ms Rooney’s team.”

On Thursday, Mr Andre hit back at the jibe in an Instagram post, in which he said the allegation had followed him for 15 years, claiming there would be “absolute outrage” had the tables been turned and comments were made about a woman's genitalia.

'It was me'

During her third day in the witness box at the High Court on Thursday, Mrs Vardy appeared to accept that her agent leaked information from Mrs Rooney’s private Instagram account to The Sun.

The court heard one of the articles in the case concerned Mrs Rooney’s car being damaged in early 2019, with a picture of the battered Honda being posted on her private Instagram account, which she later deleted.

A story was published in The Sun three days later.

Texts exchanged between Mrs Vardy and her agent, Caroline Watt, a day after Mrs Rooney posted the photo were read out to the court by Mrs Rooney's barrister, David Sherborne.

Ms Watt wrote to Mrs Vardy on WhatsApp: "I would've tried to do a story on Coleen but the evidence has been deleted."

She asks Mrs Vardy what the picture showed, to which Mrs Vardy replied "a picture of the side of the car knackered" along with the picture caption.

Martha Fairlie, reporting from the Royal Courts of Justice, explains what was revealed on day three of the trial

The court heard that Mrs Rooney later posted a public tweet saying it was “sad” someone who followed her was “betraying” her after the article was published.

While purportedly discussing this tweet in a private WhatsApp conversation, Ms Watt told Mrs Vardy: “It wasn’t someone she trusted. It was me”, in a message accompanied by a laughing face emoji.

Mrs Vardy claimed The Sun already had that information, but the barrister put it to her that text shows Ms Watt admitted she leaked the information to the journalist.

Mrs Vardy told the court that "seems to be what she is saying" but she did not authorise it and said she didn't reply as she was bathing her children at the time.

'Just joking' over affair leak

On Wednesday, Mrs Vardy denied being prepared “to lie under oath” when she said WhatsApp conversations with her agent Ms Watt about leaking information and receiving payment were “never serious”.

Mrs Vardy also said the pair were “gossiping” or she was “just joking” when questioned about alleged messages between them about leaking information on a cheating footballer - who remained unnamed in court - in 2019, and on former Leicester City player Riyad Mahrez missing training in 2018.

The court also heard Mrs Vardy told her agent she “wanted paying” for information about then-Chelsea player Danny Drinkwater leaving police custody after crashing his car in 2019. Drinkwater was banned from the roads for 20 months and ordered to do 70 hours of community service after pleading guilty to drink driving.

In her written statement, Mrs Vardy said: “I have sometimes been caught up in the heat of the moment during conversations with Caroline where I have talked about ‘leaks’ and payment, but these conversations were never serious, and Caroline would have understood that.

“I have never been paid for private information about anybody apart from myself or my family.”

Alleged staged paparazzi shots

Mrs Rooney said Mrs Vardy's “desire to be famous” was one of the reasons that her Instagram account stood out for her, as well as her numerous exclusive interviews with The Sun.

It was alleged Mrs Vardy tried to move seats at a 2016 Euros match to be near Mrs Rooney and therefore more prominent in paparazzi photos.

Mrs Vardy branded the suggestion she discussed sitting behind Mrs Rooney at the match in her The Sun column in order to bolster her public image as “ridiculous”, the court heard.

Mrs Vardy said it was 'ridiculous' to suggest she sat near Mrs Rooney for the paparazzi shots. Credit: PA

“I know from my experience in the media that a common tactic of those who want to be famous is that they will stage paparazzi shots with agencies," Mrs Rooney said.

“Those shots will then be sold to the tabloid press and the individual in question will split the monies earned from the tabloid press with the paparazzi agent or they will get other benefits such as being able to help control their image in the press."

Mr Sherborne, Mrs Rooney's barrister, introduced a witness statement from Harpreet Robertson, who was family liaison officer for the Football Association during the Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018 international football tournaments.

Mr Sherborne said the statement was “responsive” to evidence in Mrs Vardy’s statement that at the Euros in 2016, where she first got to know Mrs Rooney, her friends sat behind Mrs Rooney because they were the “nearest seats available”.

The barrister said in court documents: “In fact, Ms Robinson explains that this is untrue."

According to Ms Robinson, Mrs Vardy's seats were 20-25 of the fifth row, and Mrs Rooney "correctly" sat in seats one to six on the eighth row.

“The seats behind (Ms Rooney) were reserved for Ms Robinson and security, and when she asked them to move the guests refused, in abusive terms,” added Mr Sherborne.

Mrs Rooney's team allege Mrs Vardy staged paparazzi shots. Credit: PA

'Like arguing with a pigeon... it's still going to s*** in your hair'

Mrs Rooney's barrister Mr Sherborne discussed an interview Mrs Vardy gave to the Daily Mail after Mrs Rooney’s “Wagatha Christie” post, in which she denied being behind the leaks and said she was devastated by the abuse she received.

When asked by the journalist if the pair had argued, Mrs Vardy said: “That would be like arguing with a pigeon. You can tell it that you are right and it is wrong, but it’s still going to s*** in your hair.”

Mr Sherborne said that, in that article, Mrs Vardy claimed there were about “a dozen” people who had access to her Instagram account, but he said she has now admitted the only people with access were her, Ms Watt, Jamie Vardy and his social media manager.

Wayne Rooney appeared at the High Court alongside his wife. Credit: PA

Mrs Vardy said that, at the time of speaking to the journalist who wrote the article, she believed it was the case that others could access her account.

Further disclosed WhatsApp messages between Ms Vardy and Ms Watt showed that Mrs Vardy was "sometimes irritated by Ms Rooney, rightly or wrongly,” Mrs Vardy's barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC said.

“She said rude things about her, she used four-letter words. It’s not unknown for people to talk in private conversation in ways that they wouldn’t talk about in public.”

Messages about Coleen Rooney's deceased sister

Mrs Rooney told the court on Friday that a message between Mrs Vardy and her agent referencing her deceased sister “knocked me sick” when it was disclosed.

She wrote in her witness statement: “While they were discussing her messaging me in order to cover her tracks, Becky says to Caroline Watt ‘maybe I should say something about Rosie’.

“Rosie is a reference to my sister who suffered with Rett Syndrome and passed away in 2013 at the age of just 14.

“The mere fact that Becky would suggest seeking to use Rosie’s name in conversation with me in order to put me off the scent of suspecting Becky as the person responsible for leaking my private information to The Sun is really low and sad.

“It actually knocked me sick when I read that message from Becky to Caroline.”

Rebekah Vardy's online abuse

Mrs Vardy said it came as a “great shock” to be accused of leaking information by Mrs Rooney in the social media post, a time when Mrs Vardy was seven months pregnant with her youngest daughter.

“I started to get really hot and suffered from strange palpitations,” she said, adding that she was left “shaking” and “hyperventilating”.

She broke down in tears as she told of the "horrendous" online abuse she has suffered and said she will "never forgive" Mrs Rooney after she "ruined" the last weeks of her pregnancy.

Mrs Vardy broke down revealing the online abuse she had suffered. Credit: PA

Mrs Vardy added: “The impact of Coleen’s allegation on me and my family has been traumatic.

“I was genuinely scared that I might lose my baby as a result of the stress I was under in the days and weeks after the post. We will never get that time back."

Mrs Vardy said in her statement that “within minutes” of Mrs Rooney making her allegations there “was a torrent of insults calling me a snake, a grass and a rat”.

“I received threats, and death threats, including to my unborn baby,” she added.

Since Mrs Rooney’s accusatory post had “gone viral”, Mrs Vardy said there had been repetition of variations of her “reveal” of “It’s………. Rebekah Vardy’s account.”

“The most upsetting instance of this was social media commentary on the police announcement that a suspect had been identified in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann,” Mrs Vardy said in her statement.

“Many users of Twitter published jokes that it was my account.”

Mrs Vardy said she now finds it “really difficult to trust people”, had experienced “severe panic attacks” and was admitted to hospital three times in the aftermath of Mrs Rooney’s post.

Wagatha Christie post 'last resort'

Mrs Rooney said 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”.

She told the court she had given out warnings “many times” on social media and temporarily removed Mrs Vardy from her account “but nothing had worked”.

Mrs Rooney said the now-viral 'Wagatha Christie' post was her 'last resort'. Credit: PA

“This was my last resort,” she said. In a witness statement, she outlined her “growing sense of suspicion” that Mrs Vardy’s account might be linked to alleged leaks.

She claimed that her concerns “went beyond my own posts”, writing in her witness statement: “I knew that I could not be the only one whose trust was being abused by the culprit and I now know from having seen the WhatsApp exchanges between Becky and Caroline that Becky was leaking information about a whole range of other people too.

“I thought whoever was doing this was probably betraying other people in this way too.”

She added: “There have been no leaks of posts from my account since.

“No doubt similar behaviour by Becky was also a real worry for many others too. I am glad I have put an end to it.”