Rebekah Vardy benefited from leaking stories about Coleen Rooney to The Sun as part of an “habitual practice” between her and the newspaper, the High Court has heard.
Mrs Rooney (pictured, left), 35, accused Mrs Vardy (right), 39, of leaking “false stories” about her private life in October 2019 after carrying out a months-long “sting operation” which saw her dubbed “Wagatha Christie”.
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The wife of former England star Wayne Rooney claimed her fellow footballer’s wife shared fake stories she had posted on her personal Instagram account with the newspaper.
“Nobody knew that there were fake posts, no one else was told, not even her husband Mr Rooney,” Mrs Rooney’s barrister David Sherborne told the court on Friday.
Mrs Rooney then wrote on Instagram and Twitter: “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.”
Mrs Vardy, who is married to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, denies the accusations and is suing Mrs Rooney for libel in a case which has already cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, the court heard on Friday.
In the latest hearing, Mrs Vardy’s lawyers asked the High Court to throw out parts of Mrs Rooney’s defence, including allegations of Mrs Vardy’s close relationship with The Sun.
Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Mrs Vardy, said: “The purpose of this application is to clear away what we say is a mass of irrelevant or peripheral material to save time and costs.”
Mr Tomlinson denied that Mrs Vardy wanted those parts of the defence thrown out because they would be embarrassing for her.
The court heard that Mrs Vardy was exposed to “widespread” abuse after the post, with the barrister adding: “Her children were also abused at school and it is a very serious matter from her point of view.”
Mr Tomlinson said sections of the defence about Mrs Vardy’s relationship with The Sun newspaper, including her alleged but denied authorship of “The Secret Wag” column, are not relevant to the trial.
“Much of it is so far away from the issues as to be patently irrelevant,” he told the court.
Mr Tomlinson added that even if she did have an exceptionally close relationship with the paper, it “does not mean that it is more likely than not that the claimant had regularly informed The Sun about the defendant’s private posts”.
The barrister told the court that after the libel claim was announced, the author of the “Secret Wag” wrote a column predicting Mrs Rooney would win the case.
“Plainly that was a subtle piece of distraction by the claimant when writing the column,” Mr Tomlinson said.
Mr Tomlinson later highlighted that both women have a public profile and their own relationships with the media.
He said: “What has happened in this case is that the defendant has gone through the claimant’s appearances in the newspapers, put two and two together and made seven.”
The barrister also told the court that keeping in all of Mrs Rooney’s defence would extend the trial by two days, adding tens of thousands of pounds to the costs of the case.
Mrs Vardy also applied for summary judgment – a legal step which would see that part of the case resolved without a trial – concerning Mrs Rooney’s claim that Mrs Vardy leaked a story to The Sun about her returning to TV presenting.
Mrs Rooney said she blocked everyone except Mrs Vardy from seeing her Instagram stories between September 1 and October 4 2019 before posting a selfie with text reading “easing my way back into work!! TV decisions today” on September 25.
A story reporting her desire to revive her TV career appeared on The Sun’s website three days later, Mrs Rooney claims.
However, Mr Tomlinson said The Sun’s story was part of a series of articles claiming Mrs Rooney was looking to return to television.
“Whether this is a leak from someone else or from the defendant herself… somebody had been briefing the newspapers that she was considering going back into TV,” he said.
Mr Sherborne opposed the bid to have parts of Mrs Rooney’s case thrown out, arguing that the “exceptionally close relationship” Mrs Vardy is said to have had with The Sun is a key part of the case.
In written submissions, Mr Sherborne said Mrs Vardy had a “habitual practice” of providing private information to the press to promote her profile.
He said: “The timing of positive coverage of the claimant in The Sun was strikingly close to the publication of other articles… that were leaked from the defendant’s private Instagram.
“This supports the inference that the claimant was benefiting from the leak of private information about the defendant to the newspaper.”
Mr Sherborne added that Mrs Vardy used her close relationship with The Sun or its journalists “for the purposes of promoting or financially exploiting her public profile”.
Mrs Rooney’s barrister said that the evidence showed Mrs Vardy was in a “very uneasy position” and said the request to throw it out was a tactical move as it would “undermine her case as well as embarrass her”.
Mrs Justice Steyn said she would give her judgment at a later date.
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