Rebekah Vardy has launched defamation proceedings against Coleen Rooney at the high court in London, in what could be an extraordinary legal case detailing the feud between the two women and their relationships with the British tabloid media.
Rooney made the headlines last year when she publicly claimed Vardy had been leaking stories from her private Instagram account to the Sun newspaper, after setting an elaborate trap on social media.
Rooney, who is married to the former England footballer Wayne Rooney, claimed she spent five months slowly reducing the number of people who could see her updates on Instagram stories until only Vardy’s account remained.
Rooney then posted a fabricated announcement on Instagram that the basement of her new house had been flooded. When it ended up as a news story in the Sun, she decided to go public with the accusation that Vardy was responsible for leaking personal information to the press – earning Rooney the nickname “Wagatha Christie”.
Vardy, a reality TV star who is married to the Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, denied any wrongdoing and later said the stress of their public dispute had caused her to have severe anxiety attacks amid widespread public mockery. She claimed at the time that other individuals may have had access to her Instagram account and announced a forensic audit of her social media profiles.
Since then the two women have been running up legal bills, while attempts to mediate the case have failed. Court filings show Vardy filed defamation proceedings at the high court earlier this month, where she will be represented by the leading law firm Kingsley Napley.
The leading media lawyer Mark Stephens said Vardy’s lawyers were likely to focus on the journalistic approach used by Rooney to obtain the information.
He said: “The Rooney sleuthing methods are going to be put on trial and forensically examined in court. I suspect what we will find is they are wanting. She will have to show that nobody else in the world knew what was being put on that Instagram account.
“There are a number of flaws with that, because those in her intimate circle will have been told what’s going on. And the technological way she did it isn’t entirely foolproof. It may well have been that Rebekah Vardy told people within her social circle and they leaked it, entirely without her knowledge or approval.”
Rooney is being represented in the case by Brabners – the same company representing the England cricketer Ben Stokes in his privacy case against the Sun.
Earlier this month, it was reported by the Sun that Rooney had sacked her previous legal team amid concerns she could lose the case over “a failure to disclose a crucial detail of her efforts to catch Becky red-handed”.
The newspaper quoted an unnamed “insider” as saying: “Along the way, something has been hidden from everyone else involved and it could end up costing them the whole case”.
If the two parties fail to reach an agreement the defamation case would go to trial, although proceedings would be unlikely to take place until 2021. No paperwork has been filed other than to note Vardy’s intention to sue and confirming the lawyers involved in the case.
The Sun has never commented on the origins of its stories on Rooney but has amended many of them to note the accusation that they were fabricated in order to out the source. Wayne Rooney was recently signed as the star columnist for the Sun’s sister paper, the Sunday Times.
Rooney’s original statement in October set out why she had decided to go public with the accusations against Vardy and set out how she had come to this conclusion: “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. There has been so much information given to them about me, my friends and my family – all without my permission or knowledge.
“After a long time of trying to figure out who it could be, for various reasons, I had a suspicion. To try and prove this I came up with an idea. I blocked everyone from viewing my Instagram stories except one account. (Those on my private account must have been wondering why I haven’t had stories on there for a while.)
“It’s been tough keeping it to myself and not making any comment at all, especially when the stories have been leaked, however I had to. Now I know for certain which account/individual it’s come from. I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them. It’s … Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Vardy has always claimed she has had issues with other people accessing her Instagram account. Earlier this year, she appeared on ITV’s Loose Women and said she had been hospitalised due to the stress caused by online abuse, which had been exacerbated by Rooney’s accusations.