Rebekah Vardy “appears to accept” her PR representative could have been the source of leaked stories which sparked the upcoming “Wagatha Christie” libel trial, Coleen Rooney’s barrister has claimed at the High Court.
Rooney accused Vardy of leaking “false stories” about her private life to The Sun newspaper in October 2019, famously posting her allegation on social media after carrying out a months-long “sting operation“.
Vardy, who is married to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, denies the allegations and is suing Rooney, the wife of former England star Wayne Rooney, for libel – with a trial set to take place in May.
Rooney’s lawyers have previously claimed that Vardy, 40, leaked information to The Sun either directly or through her friend and agent Caroline Watt “acting on her instruction or with her knowing approval”.
During a preliminary hearing on Friday, David Sherborne, representing Rooney, 36, claimed Vardy now believes Ms Watt may have been the source of the stories. He made the claim after seeing a new witness statement provided on Wednesday.
Vardy’s new statement “suggests Ms Watt was the source of the leak but claims that (Mrs Vardy) ‘did not authorise or condone her'”, Mr Sherborne said in written submissions to the court.
“It now appears… that she too ‘believes’ that Ms Watt is the source,” the barrister continued, before going on to say that “the collapse of Mrs Vardy’s case over the last day has been remarkable”.
He said: “As of the evening of 27 April 2022, in an abrupt change of position to her pleaded case since the outset, Mrs Vardy appears now to accept Mrs Rooney’s case: that Caroline Watt, Mrs Vardy’s close friend and PR, was the conduit by which stories from the defendant’s private Instagram account were leaked to The Sun through her access via Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Mr Sherborne told the court: “It has become undeniably obvious that Ms Watt is the source and Mrs Vardy, true to form says ‘it wasn’t me, I didn’t realise and I didn’t know anything about what was going on’.”
But Vardy’s lawyer Hugh Tomlinson QC told the court his client’s new witness statement did not contain “any change whatever in the pleaded case”.
He later added: “Mr Sherborne may think that this is an evil conspiracy to deceive his client and the court.
“We simply don’t know what the true position is in relation to Ms Watt. She’s not communicating with anybody. She’s not communicating with anybody on our side and we don’t know what her position is.”
Initially, Ms Watt had been expected to give evidence at the upcoming trial. However, at a hearing earlier in April, the High Court was told she was “not fit” to give oral evidence.
‘Important’ new developments
Mr Tomlinson said in written arguments that there had “been important developments that have occurred” since Vardy gave her first written statement – but did not explain what they were.
He continued: “These are all matters that are relevant to the proceedings and the issues that the court will need to determine.
“It is appropriate for the court and the defendant to have the claimant’s evidence on these new developments in a further witness statement so that the claimant’s position is made clear.
“These developments are very recent. They were completely unexpected and outside the claimant’s control… it has taken her time to process and consider the new information.”
During the hearing on Friday, Rooney’s lawyers were expected to bid for information from News Group Newspapers, the publisher of The Sun. Mr Tomlinson said Vardy supported this request “in part”, adding: “We have nothing to hide.”
A judgment on this hearing is expected at a later date, with the full trial set to start in the week beginning 9 May.
‘Wagatha Christie’: The background
The row between the two women erupted in October 2019, when Rooney accused Vardy of leaking stories to the press after planting three fake stories about herself on her personal Instagram account, secretly making them visible only to Vardy’s account.
Rooney’s “sting operation” quickly led to her being dubbed “Wagatha Christie” on social media.
She alleged these false stories – about travelling to Mexico to find out about gender selection, making a return to TV, and the basement flooding at her new house – had been shared with The Sun newspaper.
Revealing her allegation on social media at the time, Rooney said: “For a few years now someone who I trusted to follow me on my personal Instagram account has been consistently informing The Sun newspaper of my private posts and stories.
“I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them.
“It’s ……………. Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Vardy strenuously denies the allegations.