On 9 October 2019, a modern-day whodunnit was thrust into the world, complete with warring celebrities, alleged betrayal, social media traction and perhaps the most famous ellipses of the last century…
At the heart of the case are footballers’ wives Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney, with Vardy suing Rooney for libel over allegations she made about her online.
With the High Court trial set to start on Tuesday, we explain what’s behind it all.
In a social media post published on 9 October 2019, Coleen Rooney accused Rebekah Vardy of leaking stories about her to the press.
Rooney said she had planted a series of false stories about herself on her personal Instagram stories account (stories are posts on the social media app which disappear after 24 hours).
She said three 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 all been shared with The Sun newspaper.
In a bid to smoke out the culprit, Rooney said she had altered the privacy settings to make the posts visible to just one person’s account – Vardy’s.
Rooney’s investigative cunning quickly led to her being dubbed “Wagatha Christie” on social media – a nod to the world-famous British crime novelist Agatha Christie.
In her post revealing the “sting operation”, Rooney wrote: “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.”
Shortly after Rooney’s public accusation, Vardy – who was heavily pregnant at the time – responded on Instagram, strenuously denying any involvement.
Who are the key players?
Coleen Rooney, 36, is the wife of former England star (and now Derby County manager) Wayne Rooney.
Childhood sweethearts, they met in their home county of Croxteth in Liverpool aged 12 and began a relationship when they were 16.
Marrying in Portofino, Italy, in the summer of 2008, OK! Magazine reportedly paid £2.5m for exclusive coverage of the wedding.
The couple now live in a £20m mansion in Cheshire and have four sons together, Kai, Klay, Kit and Cass.
Rooney has previously written columns for Closer and OK! Magazine, as well as presenting and fronting a fitness DVD. She has published several books, including an autobiography and style guides.
Rebekah Vardy, 40, is married to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy.
The couple met in 2014, when Vardy was working as a nightclub promoter.
They married in May 2016 in Peckforton Castle in Cheshire, with guests including One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson and Kasabian guitarist Sergio Pizzorno.
The couple now live in a mansion in Lincolnshire.
Vardy has five children – Megan and Taylor from previous relationships, and Sofia, Finlay and Olivia Grace with Vardy. She is also stepmother to Jamie’s daughter from a previous relationship, Ella.
Vardy’s father, Carlos Miranda, was born in Madeira, making her half Portuguese.
Vardy has previously worked as a model, and has appeared on various reality shows including I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here and Dancing On Ice. She’s also presented on Loose Women and appeared alongside her husband on Celebrity Gogglebox.
The stories were printed in The Sun, a tabloid published by News Group Newspapers Ltd (NGN).
Rooney’s team have pointed to Vardy’s close relationship with journalists at the paper, and the court has approved a request from Rooney’s team to examine communications between Vardy, her agent Caroline Watt and the Sun journalist Andrew Halls (who was the author of one of the three articles in question).
A request to disclose communications between Vardy, Ms Watt and eight other Sun journalists was turned down by the judge.
Despite The Sun’s involvement in the case, Rooney is not suing the paper or the publisher – just Vardy.
Caroline Watt is Rebekah Vardy’s agent and friend.
WhatsApp messages between the pair have been discussed in several pre-trial hearings, including one in which Vardy appeared to refer to Rooney as a “nasty b****”.
Examination of any further messages was curtailed after Ms Watt’s phone “regrettably” fell into the North Sea after a boat she was on hit a wave, shortly after one of the hearings.
Rooney’s lawyers have labelled Ms Watt a “fall guy” and say she is responsible for leaking information to The Sun, with Vardy’s approval. Vardy’s lawyers oppose this.
Described in written evidence as being in “a fragile state”, Ms Watt will not be speaking at the trail and has been deemed “not fit” to give oral evidence.
Who else has got involved?
Model Danielle Lloyd waded into the argument by responding to Rooney’s original post.
Lloyd posted three rat emojis and a second comment, saying: “On a serious note though who does that, it’s terrible.”
While neither Vardy nor Rooney’s footballer husbands have got directly involved, Jamie Vardy did “like” his wife’s initial denial tweet.
Vardy’s father, Carlos Miranda, has also been a vocal advocate of his daughter, insisting her account must have been hacked.
Why is the case coming to court now?
While the social media post which sparked the case was shared back in October 2019, news that Vardy would be taking Rooney to court didn’t break until June 2020.
In the meantime, Vardy gave birth to her daughter Olivia Grace, who is now two-and-a-half years old.
In November 2020, Mr Justice Warby ruled in favour of Vardy proceeding with the case after the libel preliminary hearing at the High Court. Neither Rooney nor Vardy were at the court in person. Rooney was ordered to pay Vardy almost £23,000 in court costs.
Total legal costs have been estimated at over £400,000 on each side.
After attempts to mediate the case, and following several days of pre-trial hearings, the case is finally coming to court now.
Where’s the trial being held and how long will it last?
The trial, which is being held at the High Court in London, will begin on Tuesday 10 May and is scheduled to last for six days.
A judgment on the case is expected at a later date.
Follow the trial on Sky News where we will be blogging live from the courtroom.