War of WAGs: The Sun shared revenues from leaked Coleen Rooney stories with Rebekah Vardy, court told
Judges were told this morning that the wife of Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, Rebekah Vardy, received positive coverage from newspaper The Sun in return for leaked stories about Coleen Rooney.
Rooney accuses Vardy of leaking “false stories” about her private life in late 2019 after carrying out a months-long “sting operation” which saw her dubbed “Wagatha Christie”.
The 35-year old 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.
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.” Vardy, 39, denies the accusations and is countersuing Rooney for libel.
During a hearing earlier today, Vardy’s lawyers asked the High Court to throw out parts of Rooney’s defence, including allegations of Vardy’s close relationship with The Sun and benefits she received.
Hugh Tomlinson QC, for 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.”
Tomlinson denied that Vardy wanted those parts of the defence thrown out because they would be embarrassing for her.
“If necessary she will deal with it but we say it is not necessary and will be a waste of everybody’s time,” he added.
The barrister argued that the central issue was whether Vardy was leaking posts from Rooney’s Instagram and that the other issues would not be necessary.
In his written submissions, Tomlinson said most of the claims made by Rooney’s lawyers were in dispute and denied.
“Even if it were established that the claimant has ‘an exceptionally close relationship’ with The Sun, that it gave her positive coverage, that she has a history of self-promotion or is the ‘Secret Wag’, does not mean that it is more likely than not that the claimant had regularly informed The Sun about the defendant’s private posts,” he argued.
“Most of the factual allegations which are made are, in fact, wrong, but considerable time and costs will be wasted in examining them… It will be a monumental waste of time and costs,” he added.
‘Exceptionally close relationship’
The move to throw out part of the defence was opposed by Rooney, with her barrister David Sherborne arguing that the “exceptionally close relationship” Vardy is said to have had with The Sun is a key part of the case.
In written submissions, Sherborne said Vardy had a “habitual practice” of providing private information to the press to promote her profile.
“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,” he said.
“This supports the inference that the claimant was benefiting from the leak of private information about the defendant to the newspaper.”
Sherborne added that that Vardy used her close relationship with The Sun or its journalists “for the purposes of promoting or financially exploiting her public profile”.
The barrister later claimed that Vardy would receive a split of commission and revenue for stories given to The Sun through the Front Row Partnership, a PR agency where Vardy was a client.
Vardy has denied any knowledge or authorisation of passing on private information.
Today, the High Court also heard that mediation took place between Vardy and Rooney, but was unsuccessful.
Vardy has also applied for summary judgment – a legal step which would see that part of the case resolved without a trial – in relation to Rooney’s claim that Vardy leaked a story to The Sun about her returning to TV presenting.
Rooney said she blocked everyone except 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, Rooney claims.
However, Rooney said she “invented” the story as part of her investigation to discover the source of the leaks and had no intention of entering into more television work.
Rooney has also said she planted stories about her travelling to Mexico to “see what this gender selection is all about” and the basement flooding in her new house.
Vardy sued Rooney last June, claiming she “suffered extreme distress, hurt, anxiety and embarrassment as a result of the publication of the post and the events which followed”.
In her written case against Rooney, Vardy’s lawyers said the abuse she received made her “feel suicidal”, adding: “She suffered from severe panic attacks and anxiety which manifested in being scared to leave her house.”
Vardy claimed her husband Jamie was targeted during football matches, with opposition fans chanting “your wife is a grass” for up to five minutes at a time.
The hearing before Mrs Justice Steyn continues.