“Wagatha Christie”, “Wags at war”, the “Wag World Cup”. Call it what you will, the libel case between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy had plenty to keep watchers in suspense: lost evidence, tears and Wayne Rooney stepping off the bench and into the witness box.
The couple rose to tabloid fame as the Wags – wives and girlfriends of England footballers – but fell out dramatically after Mrs Rooney, the wife of former England captain Wayne, said she had conducted an undercover operation to find out who leaked stories about him to The Soleil.
“It’s… Rebekah Vardy’s account,” she claimed. Ms Vardy, who is married to former England striker Jamie, denied personally leaking stories and sued Ms Rooney for defamation.
Here are some nuggets we uncovered during the two-week High Court trial.
1. Mrs. Rooney wrote her famous……….post by hand
The social media revelation that rocked the world of pop culture in 2019 began as a humble, handwritten note, the court heard last week.
Ms Rooney said she originally wrote the message by hand (she was also seen doodling in a leopard-print notebook throughout the trial) before typing it up and sending it to her brother, who helped him post it on his social media accounts.
The original note has unfortunately been lost.
2. There is no need to say “If I’m being honest” when testifying
Such an innocent phrase, but apparently can get you in trouble.
When Ms Vardy began one of her answers in this way during cross-examination of Ms Rooney’s lawyer, David Sherborne, he retorted: “I hope you are being honest, because you are sitting at the stand witnesses.”
Ms Rooney herself did the same thing several times, apologizing for starting her answers, under oath, with the phrase “To be honest”.
3. Crucial evidence is in Davy Jones’ locker
Due to “a series of unfortunate events”, as Ms Rooney’s lawyer sarcastically put it, WhatsApp messages between Ms Vardy’s agent Caroline Watt and reporters, which may have helped Ms. Rooney, were unavailable. Ms Watt accidentally dropped her phone in the North Sea while on a boat trip in Scotland, the court heard.
The theatrical Mr Sherborne noted that it was a ‘shame’ the phone ‘lies at the bottom of the sea in Davy Jones’ locker’. To which Ms Vardy, sitting in the witness box, replied: “Who is Davy Jones?”
The judge, Mrs Justice Steyn, explained: ‘It just means the bottom of the sea.
Perhaps the attorney learned the nautical phrase from one of his former libel-plaintiff clients, Johnny Depp – aka Captain Jack Sparrow.
Mr Sherborne himself did not know who SAS TV personality Ant Middleton was when his name appeared elsewhere in the proceedings, while the judge and Mr Tomlinson seemed to struggle to understand how Instagram works.
4. Ms Vardy compared Ms Rooney to a bird
Excerpts from an interview Ms Vardy gave to the Daily Mail, published the day after Ms Rooney’s online allegation, were read out in court.
In the interview, she said: “Arguing with Coleen Rooney would be like arguing with a pigeon. You can tell him you’re right and you’re wrong, but it’s okay anyway. [poop] in your hair.”
However, she told the court she “didn’t have a clear head” during the interview.
Ms Rooney, for her part, called her ex-partner ‘celebrity hungry’.
5. Bridgerton had the original Secret Wag
The Secret Wag, an anonymously written column in The Sun about footballers, has often come up, with Ms Rooney saying she believed Ms Vardy had been a source, which she denied.
While casting doubt on the validity of the column, Ms Vardy’s lawyer seemed to blurt out how he likes to relax after work.
“Mrs. Rooney thinks the Secret Wag column is an actual version of Lady Whistledown in [Netflix series] Bridgerton, rather than a journalistic fabrication,” Mr Tomlinson said.
6. Gemma Collins’ face got an unlikely mention
Ms Vardy appeared to admit that in a WhatsApp message read to the court, her agent admitted to leaking a story from Ms Rooney’s private Instagram account relating to an alleged car accident.
After Ms Rooney announced that someone she trusted was betraying her, Ms Watt wrote to Ms Vardy: ‘It was not someone she trusted. It was me.’
Asked why she didn’t challenge her agent about it, Ms Vardy said she was too distracted because she bathed her children while watching Gemma Collins’ infamous ‘faceplant’ in Dancing On Ice.
Ms Vardy had to leave the witness box in tears several times during what she called an almost three-day “daunting” cross-examination.
Ms Watt did not give evidence after a consultant forensic psychiatrist decided she was not fit to testify.
7. The defamation case became a fashion show
Cameras aren’t allowed in courtrooms in England (hence the use of court sketches), so all the paparazzi could do was wait outside early each morning to get pictures of players keys arriving.
Ms Vardy hid her eyes behind chunky sunglasses most of the time and wore glamorous designer outfits, while Ms Rooney wore high street clothes, donning the same pantsuit twice.
She also wore a surgical boot, just like her husband Wayne did when he broke his metatarsal before the 2006 World Cup – the tournament where the “Wags” first broke out.
Mr Tomlinson said Ms Rooney had “no evidence” to link his client to the alleged leaks.
Ms Rooney told the court: ‘I believe Ms Vardy knew it was happening, whether it was Ms Vardy herself or someone she had given permission to.
Ms Vardy’s lawyer replied that having beliefs was not the same as having evidence. “You might think Derby County will win the Premiership in two years. That’s not proof they will.”
Mr Tomlinson was probably unaware that it was impossible for Derby to win the Premier League in two years given the club’s recent relegation to the third tier.
Sitting a few yards to her right, their manager – Wayne, Mrs Rooney’s husband – watched into the distance.
9. Canadians (husbands and boyfriends) finally got involved
The footballer-turned-manager was with his wife throughout the trial, holding her bag and opening the doors, but looked away when she told the court they had been apart for some time.
His former England team-mate Jamie Vardy – who scored four goals while the case was pending – made his High Court debut on day six, arriving hand-in-hand with his wife. The football stars seemed to recognize each other at first, unlike their other halves.
Mr Vardy’s first trip to court came the day Mr Rooney testified that then England manager Roy Hodgson asked him to speak to Mr Vardy about his wife being an unwanted distraction around Euro 2016.
Mr Rooney recalled the conversation in detail, saying he had coffee while Mr Vardy drank an energy drink. However, Mr Vardy said outside the hearing that no such conversation took place.
10. Peter Andre’s anatomy has been discussed at length
Or not very long, if you believe what you read in Ms. Vardy’s unflattering story about the singer.
The News of the World article from 2004 was again unearthed in court. Ms Vardy said the article was ‘shameful’ and the now-defunct tabloid had ‘twisted’ many things she said. She said she had privately messaged Mr. Andre and his partner.
After coverage of the case brought the story back under the microscope, Mr Andre responded online, saying he was glad she admitted ‘she did it because her ex-husband told her. forced to do so.”
He said he had been ‘the butt of every joke for years’, stressing that there would be ‘absolute outrage’ if he wrote anything unflattering on his body.
The trial is now over and Judge Steyn is expected to deliver her judgment in the coming weeks.