‘Wagatha Christie’: Soccer spouses’ libel battle opens in UK
LONDON (AP) — A trial involving two soccer spouses, one of whom publicly called out the other for allegedly leaking her private social media posts to a British tabloid newspaper, opened Tuesday in London.
Rebekah Vardy, 40, sued for libel after Coleen Rooney, 36, accused her of sharing the Instagram content with The Sun newspaper in October 2019.
The celebrity court drama has drawn intense interest in Britain because both women are TV personalities and both are married to famous British footballers — Rooney to former Manchester United and England star Wayne Rooney, Vardy to Leicester City and England striker Jamie Vardy.
A crowd of photographers flanked both women as they arrived at London’s Royal Courts of Justice.
Rooney has said she purposely posted fake stories on Instagram over several months to find out who was passing her private information to the press.
In a social media post that quickly went viral, she said she knew Vardy was responsible because she had blocked everyone except an account belonging to Vardy from seeing her Instagram stories.
The courtroom confrontation has been dubbed the “Wagatha Christie” trial, a play on the slang term “WAG” – wives and girlfriends of soccer stars – and the name of crime author Agatha Christie – a reference to Rooney’s alleged detective work.
Vardy’s lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson, said his client “had no choice but to bring this libel action to establish her innocence and vindicate her reputation.”
Tomlinson said Vardy made “strenuous but unsuccessful attempts” to settle the matter, but Rooney would not remove her accusatory post.
He added that the dispute and subsequent libel case had become the subject of intense press coverage and a source of “entertainment” in the media. But it has caused profound distress for Vardy, who was subjected to online abuse, he said.
Vardy rejected Rooney’s accusation in court Tuesday, saying “I didn’t give any information to a newspaper” and “I didn’t leak anything to anyone.”
Rooney’s lawyer, David Sherbourne, alleged there was evidence Vardy had discussed leaking other people’s private information with her publicist and friend Caroline Watt.
He also accused Vardy and Watt of deliberately destroying evidence in the case, including Watt’s phone, which was lost after it allegedly fell into the North Sea.
It was “more likely than not that Mrs. Vardy knew and approved Ms. Watt passing in secret information about Mrs. Rooney’s private Instagram account to The Sun,” Sherbourne said.
The trial is expected to last seven days. Rooney and her husband are both expected to testify later.
By SYLVIA HUI