Rebekah Vardy has strongly denied leaking stories about Coleen Rooney to the Sun newspaper, in the latest stage of the high-profile “Wagatha Christie” legal battle between the two footballers’ wives.
Vardy has said she is seeking substantial damages as a result of the “public ridicule and contempt” that she has suffered since Rooney alleged she had been passing information from a private Instagram account to reporters at the tabloid.
Rooney, who is married to the former England footballer Wayne Rooney, claimed she spent five months slowly reducing the number of people who could see her updates on Instagram stories until only Vardy’s account remained. She claims she then posted a fabricated story and when it ended up in the Sun, went public with the accusation that Vardy’s account was responsible.
Vardy, who has always strongly denied passing stories to the newspaper, has now launched a libel action and claimed in court filings she had been made a scapegoat to cover for supposedly “leaked” stories that had been previously published in the media about Coleen Rooney’s private life.
Vardy alleged that in reality some of these stories about the Rooneys’ marriage “have in fact come from [Coleen Rooney’s] friends, at times even with [Coleen Rooney’s] approval”.
Vardy’s legal team said that Rooney had acted in a “calculated and deliberate manner that was designed to cause very serious harm and enormous distress” by publishing the accusation. In the court filings, she described the impact it had had on her and her family, claiming it had caused her severe anxiety and suicidal thoughts while pregnant. The court filings also detail at length many abusive posts on social media aimed at Vardy featuring the snake emoji and an extensive list of chants during football matches about her footballer husband, Jamie Vardy.
A key issue is that, contrary to standard journalistic practice, Rooney did not contact Vardy with a request for comment prior to publishing the allegations. As a result, Vardy did not have an opportunity to comment on whether the claims were true or have a chance to explain her position.
Vardy, who has always said that other people may have had access to her Instagram account, said other people may have seen Rooney’s posts and provided them to the Sun.
“Contrary to the impression given in the post that every false story led to an article in the Sun, in fact there were numerous false stories posted by [Rooney] between April and early October 2019 which did not result in publications,” said Vardy’s lawyers. They suggested Rooney went too far by saying she “knew for certain” the leak could only have come from Vardy’s account.
Mark Lewis, a media lawyer, previously told the Guardian that he expected Vardy’s legal team to focus on Rooney’s approach to investigative journalism: “The Rooney sleuthing methods are going to be put on trial and forensically examined in court. I suspect what we will find is they are wanting. She will have to show that nobody else in the world knew what was being put on that Instagram account.”
Many of Vardy’s claims for damages rely on the extent to which Rooney’s phrase “It’s … Rebekah Vardy’s account” has become embedded as a meme in popular culture.
Among other incidents, Vardy complained that during the 2019 general election, the then Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, tweeted: “It’s been tough keeping it to myself and not making any comment at all, especially when the stories have been leaked, however I had to. Now I know for certain which individual is selling off our NHS. It’s … Boris Johnson”.
Vardy also complained that when German police said they had identified a new suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, some people on Twitter joked that it could be her. Her lawyers provided a further example: “On 2 November 2019, several users on Twitter responded to President Donald Trump’s tweet ‘ISIS has a new leader. We know exactly who he is!’, with ‘It’s … Rebekah Vardy’.”