Rebekah Vardy ‘painted as a villain’ when Coleen Rooney accused her of leaking stories, High Court hears
Rebekah Vardy was “painted as a villain” when Coleen Rooney, her fellow footballer’s wife, shared an Instagram post accusing her of leaking stories to the press, the High Court has heard.
Mrs Rooney, who is married to Wayne Rooney, the former Manchester United and England star, was last year dubbed “Wagatha Christie” after she turned detective to try to establish who was leaking personal updates she was sharing on social media to The Sun.
In a post last October, Mrs Rooney claimed she had finally worked out who was responsible for the leaks after a secret five-month plot, telling her two million followers: “It’s ………. Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
The post went viral and has since prompted legal proceedings from Mrs Vardy, wife of Jamie Vardy, the England striker, who is suing Mrs Rooney for libel, arguing that the post implies a breach of trust.
But Mrs Rooney’s defence is that she did not directly accuse Mrs Vardy of the leak, rather her Instagram account – which other people had access to including Mrs Vardy’s agent, her husband and his social media manager.
Coleen Rooney (left) accused Rebekah Vardy (right) of selling stories from her private Instagram account to tabloid newspapers.
Credit: Peter Byrne, Ian West/PA Wire
Lawyers for Mrs Rooney told the High Court that her use of “three ellipses and a full stop draw the readers’ eye” to the accusation being levelled at Mrs Vardy’s account, rather than her as a person.
“The final line of the post is important,” Mrs Rooney’s lawyers argued in papers lodged before the court. “It encapsulates the essential message of the post. A reader scrolling through Twitter or Instagram would indeed focus on this final paragraph.”
David Sherborne, for Mrs Rooney, said: “We say that what the ordinary social media user would have taken from this is simple: that the source of the leak comes from Rebekah Vardy’s account. After all, that is what Mrs Rooney says.
“When one looks through the words and sees the process, what one would have been struck by is the constant reference to the word account, as opposed to the word individual.”
The court heard that social media users are a “new class of reader” and it is “commonly accepted” among them that celebrities’ accounts are run by various people.
This has been a burden in my life for a few years now and finally I have got to the bottom of it…… pic.twitter.com/0YqJAoXuK1
— Coleen Rooney (@ColeenRoo) October 9, 2019
But Mrs Vardy’s lawyers told the court: “We say that the impression an ordinary social media user would get from the post is clear: it was Rebekah Vardy who was leaking to The Sun, she was the person who had access to the post and she was the one who was betraying Mrs Rooney over the years.”
Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Mrs Vardy, said his client, who was seven months pregnant at the time, had “suffered widespread hostility and abuse” after the post was shared and feared losing her baby due to the stress. The court heard that the mother of five was trolled on social media by users who joked that she was the new leader of the Islamic State terrorist group, while others said she was involved in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
Mr Tomlinson added: “The fact that both women are married to professional footballers has led to this action being trivialised in some media coverage as ‘Wag wars’. But the impact on Mrs Vardy was not trivial.”
He said: “She has been subjected to an undue and unjustified attack that has had, and continues to have, an impact on her. She has brought this action to vindicate her reputation.”
Rebekah Vardy arrived for a training session at the National Ice Centre on Thursday morning as she prepares to take part in Dancing on Ice.
Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
The hearing, which was not attended by either Mrs Rooney or Mrs Vardy, was the first preliminary stage in the high-profile libel battle between the two women, who were once friends.
Mrs Rooney, a 34-year-old mother of four, had reached the conclusion it was Mrs Vardy leaking stories to the press after blocking all accounts from seeing her Instagram stories, apart from her fellow Wag.
Mrs Rooney then planted false stories to see if they made their way into The Sun, including her travelling to Mexico, and the basement flooding in her house.
Mr Justice Warby was asked to determine the “natural and ordinary” meaning of Mrs Rooney’s social media post, which was liked more than 2.5 million times, the court heard. He will deliver his judgment today.
Lawyers for both women told the court that they would like one last attempt at mediation in order to avoid a full trial. If talks fail, the case will likely be listed for five days next summer, the court heard.