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JANE FRYER’s ultimate guide to the libel trial that could rival Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard for drama

Sometimes a celebrity feud is so idiotic, juicy, frivolous and entertaining that it grabs us, perks us up, dazzles us even with its brilliant silliness.

This particular feud is The Tale of Two Wags – known alternatively as The War of the Wags, The Wagatha Christie Trial, The Great British Wag-Off and A Tale of Skulwaggery.

The libel case is unfolding in the Royal Courts of Justice this week in a fiesta of fake tan and fury – and this one has it all.

For starters, it stars Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy, two of Britain’s pre-eminent football Wags (which, for the benefit of anyone who’s been living in a cave since the 2006 World Cup in Germany when the term came to prominence, stands for ‘wives and girlfriends’).

Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy (pictured in court today) are two of Britain’s pre-eminent football Wags

Artist impression of Rebekah Vardy giving evidence (L) with Wayne & Coleen Rooney looking on (R) at the Royal Courts of Justice in London

Artist impression of Rebekah Vardy giving evidence (L) with Wayne & Coleen Rooney looking on (R) at the Royal Courts of Justice in London

Rebekah Vardy is suing fellow footballer's wife Coleen Rooney for libel over "untrue and unjustified" accusations about leaked false stories.

Rebekah Vardy is suing fellow footballer’s wife Coleen Rooney for libel over ‘untrue and unjustified’ accusations about leaked false stories.

The case is steeped in glamour, money, cosmetic enhancements, public shaming, balayaged hair and a bewildering amount of regrettably mislaid evidence.

Even before the two parties turned up in The Strand yesterday in their oh-so-carefully curated outfits – Coleen in black Dynasty power shoulder pads, Gucci loafer and Aircast ankle boot, and Rebekah in an unusually demure blue dress that could not quite contain her straining bosom – the pre-trial legal bills had topped £1million.

The six-day hearing is predicted to cost at least another £2million and last week someone close to the case was reported to have likened it to a ‘train heading towards a cliff edge with two passengers on board, neither of whom is willing to disembark’.

Coleen bore a purposeful expression as she walked in to court this morning alongside her former England star husband

Coleen bore a purposeful expression as she walked in to court this morning alongside her former England star husband 

Derby County manager Wayne Rooney and his wife Coleen Rooney leave the Royal Courts of Justice in London following today's hearing

Derby County manager Wayne Rooney and his wife Coleen Rooney leave the Royal Courts of Justice in London following today’s hearing 

Mrs Vardy, 49, (pictured leaving court) said she had been 'forced' to take part in the News Of The World article by her ex-husband

Mrs Vardy, 49, (pictured leaving court) said she had been ‘forced’ to take part in the News Of The World article by her ex-husband

Rebekah leaves court accompanied by a security guard after taking to the witness stand for the first time this afternoon

Rebekah leaves court accompanied by a security guard after taking to the witness stand for the first time this afternoon 

Both have heavy-hitting and extremely expensive QCs. Hugh Tomlinson QC, 68, a previous favourite of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and several other Russian oligarchs, is representing Rebekah Vardy. Meanwhile, David Sherborne, 53, is for Coleen. His celebrity clients have included Hugh Grant and, briefly, the Duchess of Sussex.

After a three-year build-up, it is hard to imagine anyone not au fait with the immaculately presented parties. But just in case… in the defendant’s corner is the ultimate Wag, Coleen Rooney, 36.

Coleen has been in a relationship with former Manchester United star striker Wayne Rooney since they were 16. Married for 14 years, she is mother to his four sons Kai, Klay, Kit and Cass – and forgiver of his various infidelities. Over the years, she has tried her hand at TV shows, magazine columns and fashion ranges. She now lives in a £20million mansion in Cheshire and, despite her increasingly chubby husband now being Derby County manager rather than a star player, she has somehow maintained her peak Wag status.

In the claimant’s corner is 40-year-old Rebekah Vardy, nee Nicholson, who arrived late on the football scene, but has been making up for lost time ever since.

She met Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy in 2014 when working as the party planner for his 27th birthday – at which, by his own account, Jamie and his mates behaved very badly.

Rebekah was four years his senior, twice married with two children and, following a 2001 liaison with pocket pop singer Peter Andre, had already starred in a kiss-and-tell story in the News of the World. She had described Andre’s manhood as ‘the smallest trouser equipment I have ever seen’ and likened it to ‘a miniature chipolata’.

Rebekah arriving at the High Court today accompanied by two security guards. Her husband, Jamie, was not among the entourage

Rebekah arriving at the High Court today accompanied by two security guards. Her husband, Jamie, was not among the entourage 

Coleen Rooney, wife of Derby County manager Wayne Rooney, arrives with her husband at the Royal Courts of Justice in London this morning 

Somehow, Vardy won Rebekah round. They welcomed baby Sofia later that year and were married in 2016. They now have six children between them and live near Grantham, Lincolnshire, in a mansion with a tennis court, gym, indoor pool, sauna and marble-topped bar.

Incidentally, Coleen and Rebekah have plenty in common – a deep love for their talented fellas, motherhood, shopping, bikinis, their own fashion brands, a raging passion for holidays in Dubai and the Caribbean and very modest upbringings. Coleen’s mum was a cleaner and her dad a bricklayer. Rebekah had a horribly tough start and was homeless when she was 15.

Happily, thanks to their husbands’ extraordinary football skills, both are now fantastically wealthy with a ridiculous number of social media followers between them.

Coleen was seen wearing a plastic boot on her left leg today after she suffered a fracture following a fall at her home in March

Coleen was seen wearing a plastic boot on her left leg today after she suffered a fracture following a fall at her home in March

Coleen was seen wearing a plastic boot on her left leg today after she suffered a fracture following a fall at her home in March 

Emerging from a black London cab, Rebekah arriving outside the steps of the High Court this morning for the start of the Wagatha Christie trial

Emerging from a black London cab, Rebekah arriving outside the steps of the High Court this morning for the start of the Wagatha Christie trial 

For all that, they were never quite besties. Indeed, in recently revealed text messages from Vardy to her publicist Caroline Watt, she appears to refer to Coleen as a ‘nasty bitch’ and a ‘****’ who ‘needs to get over herself’ – though her team insist Vardy was talking about someone else.

Coleen, meanwhile, tolerated this Wag newbie with a boob job (reportedly paid for by her fee from her 2017 I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! appearance), invited her into her social circle and sometimes even sat next to her. But it all went sour when a series of stories started popping up in The Sun newspaper about Coleen – silly little stories that seemed to have come from her private, personal social media account; stories she’d entrusted to her inner Wag circle, including Rebekah.

Suspecting Vardy might be the culprit, Coleen put in place what appeared to be a rather brilliant sting operation, setting a trap with posts revealing fake personal information – about gender selection in Mexico, a planned TV comeback and her basement flooding – that supposedly only Vardy would see.

Coleen glances to one side as she walks into the entrance of the High Court carrying two handbags and wearing a plastic boot

Coleen glances to one side as she walks into the entrance of the High Court carrying two handbags and wearing a plastic boot 

More articles duly appeared in The Sun on all those topics as, over five months, Coleen diligently saved and screenshotted the original stories to show that just one account had access to them.

Until, on October 9, 2019 and in a ‘big reveal’ worthy of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple (hence ‘Wagatha Christie’), she proudly shared the method of this sting with her (then) 779,000 Instagram followers, finishing with a grand flourish: ‘It’s… Rebekah Vardy’s account.’

Rebekah, who was seven months’ pregnant and on holiday in Dubai at the time, denied everything, blamed hackers or anyone else who had access to her account and, on June 12, 2020, began libel proceedings against Rooney.

JANUARY 2019: Ms Vardy texts Miss Watt and is said to have described Coleen as a 'nasty b****... I’ve taken a big dislike to her! She thinks she’s amazing...Would love to leak those stories'

JANUARY 2019: Ms Vardy texts Miss Watt and is said to have described Coleen as a ‘nasty b****… I’ve taken a big dislike to her! She thinks she’s amazing…Would love to leak those stories’

FEBRUARY 2019: Ms Watt and Ms Vardy realise Rooney has unfollowed them on Instagram. In a series of messages, Rebekah, who is married to Leicester City striker Jamie, 35, is said to have described Coleen as a 'nasty b****' and a 'c***', while Ms Watt brands the wife of former Manchester United star Wayne Rooney as 'trash' and 'up her own ar**'

FEBRUARY 2019: Ms Watt and Ms Vardy realise Rooney has unfollowed them on Instagram. In a series of messages, Rebekah, who is married to Leicester City striker Jamie, 35, is said to have described Coleen as a ‘nasty b****’ and a ‘c***’, while Ms Watt brands the wife of former Manchester United star Wayne Rooney as ‘trash’ and ‘up her own ar**’

OCTOBER 2019: The pair discuss their response to Coleen's now infamous Wagatha Christie claims. The text messages are said to show Rebekah describing Mrs Rooney as a 'b***' and a 'c***'

OCTOBER 2019: The pair discuss their response to Coleen’s now infamous Wagatha Christie claims. The text messages are said to show Rebekah describing Mrs Rooney as a ‘b***’ and a ‘c***’

Soon after, things got rather tricky for Coleen.

For, despite her inspired detective work and, it seemed, evidence that the leaks came from Rebekah’s account, thanks to an early court ruling, it is up to Coleen to prove they came from Rebekah herself, or with her knowledge – not just from her account or unbeknown to her, her PR manager, Caroline Watt.

To be fair, Rebekah has long been an enthusiastic self-promoter.

Soon after falling for Jamie, she employed Mrs Watt, of Front Row Partnership, to handle her PR and, as well as I’m A Celebrity, last year appeared on Dancing On Ice.

Exchanges – many with Mrs Watt via WhatsApp – disclosed in legal papers last summer revealed that at the 2018 World Cup in Russia she set up a paparazzo photographer to take a group picture of the England wives and girlfriends without bothering to inform her fellow Wags. When it was later sold to The Sun, she insisted on a tip-off fee.

Crucial court papers also revealed that, to foster relationships with particular journalists which might enhance her own coverage, she passed on titbits about other people. So there was apparently a tip-off to The Sun that Jamie’s Leicester City team-mate Danny Drinkwater had been arrested for drink-driving. And allegedly the leak of a story, published in March 2019, that an unnamed England footballer had fathered an illegitimate child.

Smelling blood, last summer Coleen’s legal team demanded (and won) access to Watt’s phone to ‘examine further exchanges’.

But, sadly, at about the same time and in a stroke of exceptionally bad luck, Watt’s mobile was lost in the North Sea in an unfortunate incident involving a boat trip and a large wave. Not one of her WhatsApp messages, she claimed, was backed up on the Cloud.

At about the same time, all the media files (and back-ups) from WhatsApp conversations between Rebekah and Watt somehow vanished during the process of exporting them to solicitors. Coleen’s poor lawyers must have felt the world was against them.

Particularly when, on top of all that, they were told that a laptop apparently used by Rebekah no longer functioned, Jamie Vardy’s WhatsApp account had been ‘hacked and all conversations were deleted and could not be restored’. And a month ago Watt was decreed by a psychiatrist too ill to give evidence. Rebekah later suggested Watt could have ‘betrayed’ her by leaking the relevant stories without her knowledge.

What a bloody mess.

No wonder there’s a waiting list for tickets to watch the case unfold in court. It has now been confirmed that, along with Rebekah and his wife, Wayne Rooney will take the stand. Goodness only knows why they didn’t settle – or even try mediation, as firmly advised by their legal teams.

Or why on Earth the husbands – apparently, amazingly, still pals – didn’t just wade in and help to sort it all out.

Not least because, if the judge decides that any damage to Rebekah’s reputation is negligible, he could award her a minimal sum. Of course, we all know that money’s not an issue. Wayne Rooney’s worth at least £100million while Jamie Vardy earns £7million a year with Leicester City.

But surely, even the most publicity-hungry Wag wouldn’t want all her dirty washing aired in public? Even if it is mostly Dolce & Gabbana and Versace.

‘I feared losing my baby after Coleen said I was a grass’

 BY VANESSA ALLEN FOR THE DAILY MAIL

Coleen Rooney glared across a courtroom at Rebekah Vardy yesterday as the £3million ‘Wagatha Christie’ libel trial began with a series of lurid and sensational claims.

Mrs Vardy told how she feared she would lose her unborn baby after her rival Wag accused her of leaking stories.

Meanwhile, Mrs Rooney’s lawyer confronted Mrs Vardy with a newspaper interview in which she gave intimate details of a sexual encounter with pop star Peter Andre and mocked the size of his manhood.

The warring Wags finally came face to face at the High Court in London for a trial in which ‘mudslinging’ threatens to besmirch both their reputations.

Mrs Vardy, who was seven months pregnant at the time, said she suffered ‘strange palpitations’ and ‘contraction-type pains’ after Mrs Rooney took to Twitter to publicly accuse her of betraying her trust.

Giving evidence on the first day of the trial, she said she was admitted to hospital three times in the final two months of her pregnancy and was left feeling suicidal and suffering severe anxiety.

Mrs Vardy, 40, who is married to Leicester and former England footballer Jamie Vardy, launched legal action after Mrs Rooney accused her of leaking stories from her private Instagram account to The Sun newspaper. She said she was labelled a ‘grass’ and was subjected to vile abuse and death threats from trolls who said her baby should be ‘put in an incinerator’.

At one point Mrs Rooney's lawyer David Sherborne asked Rebekah (whose foul-mouthed texts have been a feature of the case) to explain the abbreviation 'FFS' in one message and she glanced nervously at the judge, who indicated it was all right to swear in court when the evidence demanded it – so she said 'For F**** sake'. (Pictured: Artist impression of Rebekah Vardy giving evidence at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. May 10, 2022)

At one point Mrs Rooney’s lawyer David Sherborne asked Rebekah (whose foul-mouthed texts have been a feature of the case) to explain the abbreviation ‘FFS’ in one message and she glanced nervously at the judge, who indicated it was all right to swear in court when the evidence demanded it – so she said ‘For F**** sake’. (Pictured: Artist impression of Rebekah Vardy giving evidence at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. May 10, 2022)

She likened Mrs Rooney, the wife of former Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney, to a ‘school bully’ and said she had effectively turned the other footballers’ wives and girlfriends against her.

Mrs Rooney, 36, glowered at her rival as she denied she was responsible for the leaked stories, saying it was ‘not nice’ to betray other people’s confidences.

During the hearing, Mrs Vardy was confronted with a front page article from the News of the World, headlined ‘Peter’s hung like a small chipolata’, in which she described Mr Andre’s physique and shaven body hair.

Mrs Vardy admitted she had not asked for permission to reveal such personal details, or warned the reality television star that she had done so.

She was asked if she felt it was ‘respectful’ for her to have discussed the intimate details, to which she said she had been forced to give the interview by an abusive ex-partner, and claimed he was paid for the 2004 article.

Coleen, looking smart in blue blazer and trousers, her hair tied back, maintained a steady, steely gaze ahead, and never more so when the moment came at 3.50pm for Rebekah to enter the witness box, after sidling right past Wayne and Coleen to get there. (Pictured: Court sketch of Wayne Rooney and Coleen, far left, and Rebekah Vardy far right, sitting near to each other in the front row at court prior to Vardy giving evidence)

Coleen, looking smart in blue blazer and trousers, her hair tied back, maintained a steady, steely gaze ahead, and never more so when the moment came at 3.50pm for Rebekah to enter the witness box, after sidling right past Wayne and Coleen to get there. (Pictured: Court sketch of Wayne Rooney and Coleen, far left, and Rebekah Vardy far right, sitting near to each other in the front row at court prior to Vardy giving evidence)

She told the High Court: ‘I was forced into a situation by my ex to do the story. It’s something I deeply regret and something that’s very much part of my past. It’s not nice to read.’

Lawyer David Sherborne, for Mrs Rooney, read excerpts from the article, in which it was claimed Mr Andre managed ‘just five minutes of sex with Rebekah’ had ‘the smallest trouser equipment I’ve ever seen’. He asked if she respected other people’s privacy. She replied: ‘Yes, I do.’

Mr Sherborne said: ‘The problem is that you believe you decide when someone’s private information should be leaked or not.’

Mrs Vardy insisted she had been forced into discussing her encounter with Mr Andre, adding: ‘I understand why this being used. To me this is mudslinging and I was also threatened with mudslinging by Mrs Rooney’s team.’

She denied she had discussed leaking a separate story, about another celebrity, over claims the unnamed star had used the computer program Photoshop to appear slimmer in photographs.

Mrs Vardy said she had not intended to leak a story about the Photoshop celebrity, but had wanted to do her own article about body positivity.

Former friends Mrs Vardy and Mrs Rooney are believed to have spent up to £3million on lawyers’ fees to fight the case.

Both arrived clad in designer clothing for the legal showdown, although Mrs Rooney was forced to team her £1,565 Mugler blazer and diamond bracelet with a plastic medical boot after fracturing her foot during a fall in March.

Mrs Vardy opted for a £890 navy dress by British-Canadian designer Edeline Lee, and scraped her dark hair back into a demure bun. She said she felt forced to launch the libel action after Mrs Rooney refused to retract her accusation, and said the 2019 tweet had led to a social media frenzy which had left her fearing for her family’s safety.

The mother-of-five said: ‘It felt like the whole world was caving in on me. I must have been in shock. I remember getting out of the car and I was shaking and thought I was going to be sick.

‘I started getting really bad pains in my stomach when we got back to the hotel. They were contraction type pains and I panicked that the baby was in danger… I was so afraid for our baby.’

Happier times: Rebekah and Coleen celebrating England's win against Wales at Stade Bollaert-Delelis in France in 2016. The moment was discussed in court today

Peter Andre

Happier times: Rebekah and Coleen celebrating England’s win against Wales at Stade Bollaert-Delelis in France in 2016 (left) and singer Peter Andre (right) 

Mrs Rooney was dubbed ‘Wagatha Christie’ after she revealed she had planted fake stories on her private Instagram account in an attempt to unmask who was leaking stories about her. In a dramatic series of messages, she said she had blocked other followers until only one Instagram user could still see her posts, adding: ‘It’s… Rebekah Vardy’s account.’

Mrs Vardy said the posts had prompted vile online abuse and death threats, and that fans now chanted ‘Vardy your bird is a grass’ when her husband played.

She said: ‘I experienced severe panic attacks and was petrified of being in public because I felt like people were looking at me and judging me. The thought of walking down the road or taking my children to school was enough to drive me over the edge at one point.

‘In the early days it made me go to a very dark place and I even felt suicidal.’ She said she had immediately contacted Mrs Rooney to deny she was responsible, and to plead with her to retract the claim.

Mob mentality

But she described Mrs Rooney as ‘cold and calculated’ and said she had gloated to her close circle of other footballers’ wives about her detective work, and had created a ‘mob mentality’ against her. Mrs Vardy said: ‘I was not the source of the three articles Coleen accused me of leaking. I believe that Coleen posted her claims so as to cause me maximum damage.

‘I will never forgive the way in which Coleen ruined my last weeks of pregnancy and the suffering she has caused to my children and my family but I hope that this claim will mean that the whole world will know that I did not betray Coleen’s trust.’

Mrs Vardy denied claims that she had conspired with her agent Caroline Watt to leak the stories to The Sun, and said she was ‘shocked and horrified’ by claims that Mrs Watt had used her Instagram log-in to access Mrs Rooney’s private account.

Whatsapp row

The court has heard WhatsApp messages between the two women in which Mrs Vardy allegedly called Mrs Rooney a ‘nasty bitch’ and said she would ‘love’ to leak stories about her.

Mr Sherborne, for mother-of-four Mrs Rooney, claimed Mrs Vardy had known and effectively approved of her agent’s actions, and likened it to using a hired hitman to carry out a murder.

Rebecaa Vardy leaves the opening day of there Libel appeal against Coleen Rooney today

Rebecaa Vardy leaves the opening day of there Libel appeal against Coleen Rooney today

He said the two women then conspired to ensure that ‘highly relevant and incriminating evidence’ was destroyed or lost in a ‘series of most improbable events’, including the alleged deletion of photographs and screenshots and the apparent loss of Mrs Watt’s phone during a boat trip on the North Sea.

He claimed Mrs Vardy now accepted she had leaked information about other sports stars and celebrities, and questioned why the High Court should devote seven days to deciding if her reputation had been damaged, adding: ‘Why on earth are we here?’ Mrs Rooney is due to give evidence later this week.

World of backstabbing

The trial also heard a series of extraordinary claims about the back-stabbing world of the Wags – wives and girlfriends – of England stars. Mrs Vardy said their lives were a ‘national obsession’ and described how she inhabited a ‘strange celebrity gossip world’ after her husband joined the national squad. Mrs Vardy was famously pictured cheering on the England team at the Euros in 2016, alongside Mrs Rooney. It was one of the first times the two women had met, but lawyers for Mrs Rooney said they were not meant to be sat together. As the wife of the England captain, space had been reserved for Mrs Rooney and her entourage, while Mrs Vardy and her friends were due to sit further away.

In her witness statement, Mrs Vardy said she sat behind Mrs Rooney because they were the nearest available seats.

Staged pictures

But lawyers for Mrs Rooney said she deliberately claimed the seats to ensure she would appear in photographs with the more famous woman, and claimed it was evidence she was ‘fame-hungry’.

They said Mrs Vardy and her friends had refused to move, telling an FA official: ‘We can sit where we like, f*** off.’

Mrs Vardy denied she had sought the limelight.

She allegedly helped to stage a paparazzi photograph of herself with the other Wags outside a restaurant at the 2018 World Cup in Russia – after they were asked to keep a low profile to prevent being a distraction.

The court heard Mrs Vardy messaged her agent saying: ‘We may have to walk to restaurant from hotel now… so might be a good pic of us walking down.’

Scapegoated

Mrs Vardy claimed the other Wags turned on her after Mrs Rooney accused her of leaking information. ‘It felt like there was a school bully pointing at me and all her friends were being directed towards me,’ she said.

‘It felt like mob mentality and that I was being attacked and humiliated from all angles.’

Some Wags made public attacks, she said, accusing her of writing the ‘Secret Wag’ column in The Sun.

In her statement to the court, Mrs Vardy said: ‘I think that Coleen, and her PR advisers, have made me a scapegoat for past ‘leaked’ stories that have been published about her and Wayne and the state of their marriage. I believe that they have, in part, done this as a way of trying to change the narrative in the Press about Coleen being a doormat following her husband’s drink-driving charge and the multiple allegations of cheating.’

She said she had felt sorry for Mrs Rooney ‘because it seemed to me that she was not in a happy marriage’.

Revelling in attention

Mrs Rooney was said to have enjoyed the publicity generated by her ‘Wagatha Christie’ sleuthing. Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Mrs Vardy, said she had shared posts which had portrayed her as the crime writer Agatha Christie or her fictional detective Miss Marple.

He said merchandise had celebrated her Instagram ‘sting’. But her ‘careful investigation was flawed from the start’.

Mrs Rooney’s social media post identified Mrs Vardy’s Instagram account, he said, but had failed to take into account that other people had access to the Vardy account.

He told the court: ‘Despite seeing the hostile abuse being directed toward Mrs Vardy as a result of the post and being on notice that it was false, Mrs Rooney did nothing. She continued to publish the post and privately appeared to revel in the news storm she had created.’

The case continues.  

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