Coleen Rooney wanted Sun to run 'totally untrue' story in Rebekah Vardy sting

Coleen Rooney wanted The Sun to publish 'totally untrue' story in Rebekah Vardy sting

Rebekah Vardy Coleen Rooney

Coleen Rooney has told the High Court she wanted The Sun to publish a “totally untrue” story about her as she pursued her Instagram sting operation against Rebekah Vardy.

Vardy sued Rooney for libel and the trial began in London’s High Court last Tuesday, with Rooney relying on the defences of truth and public interest.

In a viral social media post in October 2019, Rooney (pictured, right) said she had carried out a “sting operation” and accused Vardy (left) of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the press – specifically The Sun.

Three stories published in The Sun in 2019 remain online but with the added line: “On Wednesday October 9th, Coleen Rooney said that she made this story up in an effort to find out who was leaking to the Press.” The Sun also said following Rooney’s post that each of the stories was put to her representatives before publication and they had declined to comment each time.

Giving evidence on Monday, Rooney told the court she wanted The Sun to publish a “totally untrue” story about her looking into gender selection treatment so she had “evidence” from her so-called social media “sting operation”.

In August 2019, PR woman Rachel Monk told Rooney The Sun was planning to write a story about her visiting Mexico in relation to the treatment. Rooney had published an allegedly fake post about the subject months earlier.

“I wanted the story to run so I had evidence,” Rooney said, adding: “I didn’t want the story out there, I wanted it for my own evidence.

“It was a story that was out there but it was totally untrue.”

Rooney explained she told Monk to tell the newspaper that she “can’t get hold of me”. Amid The Sun seeking a comment on the story, Rooney told the court: “I just said don’t comment… so obviously that means they run it or not, it’s up to them.”

“I didn’t say no, I didn’t say yes.”

Monk, the daughter of Rooney’s present PR representative Ian Monk who used to work for his agency, said in a witness statement that she spoke to a showbiz journalist at The Sun called Ellie Henman in August 2019 and was told the gender selection story would be running.

Monk said: “My immediate reaction to hearing of the gender selection story was that it sounded untrue.

“I think I described it to Ellie as ‘bonkers’.

“By this point I had worked with Coleen for around 10 years and got to know her well enough to have a feel for what did and didn’t fit with who Coleen was.

“I had listened or read Coleen’s response to countless questions in media interviews about how she was happy with her family all being boys.

“I also knew that Coleen was Catholic and so gender selection just didn’t sit right at all.

“I ended the call with Ellie by agreeing to get in touch with Coleen to see if she wanted to make any comment on the story.”

Monk added that Rooney “wasn’t willing to provide any comment”, saying: “I remember Coleen’s response being really quite tepid which again took me by surprise given how outlandish the proposed story seemed to me to be.

“Coleen didn’t reference her Instagram, or anything about a fabrication or fake story, or about any kind of plan to catch anyone out, nor did she mention Rebekah Vardy.

“Coleen and I agreed that I would go back to Ellie and say that I was unable to get in touch with Coleen and that there was no comment to make.

“I went back to Ellie in a call and informed her that there was no comment from Coleen.

“I then spoke with Ellie off the record and said to her that, from my own perspective having known Coleen for such a long time, I thought there was absolutely no chance of there being any truth in this gender selection story.

“I said to her that I just couldn’t believe or even imagine it being true.

“I did this more of a heads up off the record to Ellie because, even though there was nothing on the record, I saw no need for The Sun to run what I believed, from my knowledge of Coleen, to be an inaccurate story.

“Also because Ellie was a trusted and straight professional (contact) of mine, I didn’t want her to have her name on what I believed to be an inaccurate and ridiculous story.

“However, Ellie replied and told me that The Sun would be running with the gender selection story because ‘they had a screenshot’ which confirmed their source.

“I was absolutely gobsmacked but had nothing further to add and we ended the call.”

Monk, who took to the witness stand on Monday afternoon, said she also told The Sun following queries about an alleged car crash involving Rooney that “the information that they are planning to base the story on is wrong”.

In March 2019 Rooney had also asked Monk to try and find out the source of another story in The Sun about her and her footballer husband Wayne securing a babysitter.

Rooney told the High Court she had “never craved press attention in my life”.

“I have had it and I have accepted it and I have tried to cope with it, and I have lived my life as best as I can in the public eye,” she added.

She said she believed Rebekah Vardy was linked to passing information to The Sun’s “Secret Wag” column: “I believe it was done in the same way as my Instagram, either Mrs Vardy gives the information herself or through someone else,” Rooney said.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Vardy, suggested the column could be a journalistic invention. Rooney responded: “It could be in certain parts, I do believe there’s some parts that have come from actual people.”

Asked why she did not approach Vardy with her suspicions about the leaks ahead of her viral Instagram post, Rooney said she felt Vardy had “relationships with the press” and had feared “she might twist it and she might say it wasn’t her, cover it up somehow”.

Last week, Rooney’s barrister David Sherborne accused Vardy of leaking information through her agent Caroline Watt, who has been deemed unfit to give evidence in court.

Sherborne said: “The journalists you wanted to call knew Caroline Watt was the source and that it came from you but you didn’t want to do the dirty work yourself…That’s why Ms Watt couldn’t face coming to court in the end to have been found to have lied.”

Vardy said in response: “I think she has been driven to suicidal thoughts by these proceedings and the antics of the defendant.”

Sherborne said: “I have to put it to you that it’s not her that betrayed you, as you suggest, it’s you that betrayed her by throwing her under the bus.”

Referencing a story about damage to Rooney’s car written by Sun journalist Andy Halls, Sherborne told Vardy: “You didn’t object at any stage to the fact that Ms Watt is plainly passing on information from Mrs Rooney’s private Instagram account to Andy Halls.”

Vardy said The Sun already had the information, adding: “I didn’t think she was passing on any new information.”

Sherborne asked: “Take the word new out of it. Did you or did you not know that Ms Watt was passing on information from Mrs Rooney’s private account?”

Vardy replied: “She was talking to Mr Halls about information that was already being discussed.”

Rooney and Vardy have both now concluded giving evidence. The trial at the High Court continues.

Picture: PA Wire/Yui Mok



Press Gazette's must-read weekly newsletter featuring interviews, data, insight and investigations.