Rebekah Vardy has suffered “public abuse and ridicule on a massive scale” as a result of Coleen Rooney’s “Wagatha Christie” posts about her and is entitled to “substantial damages”, the High Court has heard.
In a viral social media post in October 2019, Mrs Rooney, 36, said she had carried out a “sting operation” and accused Mrs Vardy, 40, of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the press.
The wife of former England star Wayne Rooney was dubbed “Wagatha Christie” when she publicly claimed Mrs Vardy’s account was the source behind three fake stories she had posted on her private Instagram account.
Mrs Vardy, who is married to Leicester striker Jamie Vardy, 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”.
Making his closing arguments on the final day of the trial, Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Mrs Vardy, said she has suffered “very serious harm to her reputation” as a result of Mrs Rooney’s post.
He also said that Mrs Rooney has “failed to produce any evidence” that Mrs Vardy had “regularly and frequently abused her status as a trusted follower” of her private Instagram account by passing on information from it to The Sun newspaper.
Mr Tomlinson said in written closing arguments: “Mrs Rooney has, instead, advanced a remarkable ‘case theory’ based on Mrs Vardy being party to an extraordinarily elaborate, convoluted and cunning conspiracy to mislead the court.
“This apparently includes the deletion of images but the preservation of allegedly damning text, ensuring all her agent’s messages were unavailable, a ‘double bluff’ of seeking to call witnesses who, if heard, would have destroyed her case and a pretended reluctance to blame her agent when this was, perhaps, her plan all along.
“Mrs Rooney’s case theory is misconceived.”
The barrister told the court that Mrs Vardy wanted to be “vindicated” that she was not the person who leaked Mrs Rooney’s private information.
He highlighted the “negative impact” the case had had on Mrs Vardy, adding: “The media is full of jokes about this case.”
“This is a case about Mrs Vardy and the way that she has been treated by thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of people on social media. She has been subjected to abuse that goes on to this day,” Mr Tomlinson said.
He added that Mrs Vardy had continued to receive abusive messages during the trial at the High Court.
“This is about her trying to do something about that so she can move on with her life,” Mr Tomlinson said.
He also said the suggestion Mrs Vardy had a “conspiracy to delete” messages or had deleted some in a selective way was an “incredible theory”.
“There was an export of a very large number of Whatsapp messages,” he told the court.
“Why would Mrs Vardy, if she was destroying evidence, do it in that selective and complex way?” Mr Tomlinson asked.
“If she was a wicked litigant who was trying to deceive the court by getting rid of damaging evidence, the idea she would do it by getting rid of images and not text… simply beggars belief.”
The barrister said Mrs Vardy had been “subject to lengthy, hostile and aggressive cross examination which she, unsurprisingly, found difficult and stressful at times”.
He added: “Despite the accusations made repeatedly in cross-examination, it is obvious she was not delivering ‘pre-prepared’ answers but sought to answer all questions truthfully, even if she sometimes found it difficult to explain her position.
“It was clear that she did not understand the general abstract questions at the start – as the answers she gave were obviously contrary to her later answers and her consistent position.”
Over six days in courtroom number 13 at the Royal Courts of Justice, the footballers’ wives have each given evidence, as has Mr Rooney, also 36, who played for Everton and Manchester United and now manages Derby.
Both Mrs Vardy and Mrs Rooney have been seated just feet apart in court, in front of their barristers, for each day of the hearing so far.
Mr and Mrs Rooney did not attend court on Thursday, with Mr Sherborne apologising for their absence and explaining they had a “long-standing travel arrangement with their four children” which was booked when it was thought the trial would finish on Wednesday.
Mrs Vardy arrived alone, wearing a bright green top under a black suit, and left court about 30 minutes after the hearing started before returning to court shortly before the lunch break.
The fake stories Mrs Rooney planted on her Instagram during the sting operation featured her travelling to Mexico for a “gender selection” procedure, her planning to return to TV and the basement flooding at her home.
In a now infamous post on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, she wrote: “I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them.
“It’s……….. Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Mrs Justice Steyn will reserve her ruling until a later date.