Rebekah Vardy has lost her “Wagatha Christie” libel case against Coleen Rooney in a dramatic, self-inflicted legal defeat that has shattered her reputation.
Three years ago, Rooney conducted a “stab” operation to find out who leaked stories from her personal Instagram account to journalists at The Sun. Rooney identified the culprit with the now infamous words, “It Was……Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Vardy strongly denied passing any information to the Sun and sued Rooney for defamation in a bid to restore her reputation, leading to a multi-million pound court case in the Supreme Court in May.
On Friday, Ms Justice Steyn ruled that Vardy’s defamation lawsuit had failed, meaning it was all for naught.
The judge concluded that “substantial portions” of Vardy’s evidence were not credible and that there had been many instances where her evidence was “apparently inconsistent with contemporaneous documentary evidence, evasive, or unreliable.”
She also said that Vardy and her former agent, Caroline Watt, intentionally destroyed potentially damning evidence. In one instance, WhatsApp messages on Watt’s phone were lost after the device was dropped from the side of a boat in the North Sea shortly after a request was made to search it. Vardy’s own copy of the same WhatsApp messages was lost during the backup process.
The judge concluded: “It is likely that Ms Vardy intentionally deleted her WhatsApp chat with Ms Watt and that Ms Watt intentionally threw her phone into the sea.”
She also concluded that it was likely Vardy “knew of, condoned, and was actively involved in the process” that Watt had leaked stories about Rooney to the Sun.
Bringing the case meant Vardy – the wife of Leicester City footballer Jamie – endured days of painful cross-examination before the world’s media at the High Court in central London. This included everything from her history of selling kiss-and-tell stories about singer Peter Andre to tabloids, allegations that she leaked details about her husband’s relationship with his teammates, and her own record of leaking information to the Sun. Rather than clearing her name, the case left her with a crushing defeat and a tarnished reputation.
During the seven-day trial, from nagging personal WhatsApp messages Vardy had sent against Rooney, the court heard details of her attempt to tell the Sun a story about a drink-driving arrest involving Chelsea footballer Danny Drinkwater to sell, and their attempts to postpone the Blame for the leaks about Rooney lies with Watts.
In particular, the loss of potentially crucial evidence by Vardy and those around her was widespread in court. Other files were also lost, prompting Rooney’s lawyers to invoke precedent dating back to 1722 to argue that the judge – in the absence of evidence – should assume the worst.
The legal team for Rooney, wife of former Manchester United footballer Wayne, admitted in court they didn’t have a single smoking gun, definitively proving it was Vardy who was responsible for the leaks. However, they defended the allegation on two grounds: first, that the allegation was true based on circumstantial evidence available to Rooney; and second, that it was in Rooney’s public interest to press charges against Vardy.
With libel juries virtually abolished in England and Wales, there was no immediate verdict on who had won the case after the hearings concluded in May.
Vardy’s team had told the court her life had been made hell by Rooney’s public allegation, which subjected her to widespread ridicule, social media abuse and negative chanting while her husband was playing soccer.
Her lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson, said his client would have had to be “very smart or very cynical” to manually delete WhatsApp messages. He said it would be an “extraordinarily complicated conspiracy” to have erased all the evidence.
The case has become a major cultural talking point, and several television projects centered around the court case are currently in the works.