It’s been the social media story that has gripped the UK since Coleen Rooney uttered the immortal words “it’s… Rebekah Vardy.”
After months of speculation though, the final verdict has been reached. Rebekah Vardy has lost her libel case against Coleen Rooney, the High Court ruled on Friday.
Ms Rooney conducted a sting operation in 2019 where she allowed only Ms Vardy access the a private Instagram account and fed it false stories to see if the would be leaked to the media.
They were, but Ms Vardy has always denied she passed information to The S*n.
However, Mrs. Justice Steyn said she believed that Ms Rooney’s claims were “substantially true” and that it was in the public interest to know who was leaking the stories.
Rooney only needed to demonstrate one instance of the two in order to win her case.
What the judge said about High Court decision
In a full judgement posted on the High Court’s website, Mrs. Justice Steyn believed that the two key areas in the libel case, the truth of the allegations and the public interest in the leaks, were in favour of Ms Rooney.
Justice Steyn explained: “In my judgement, the conclusions that I have reached as to the extent to which the claimant engaged in disclosing to The S*n information to which she only had access as a permitted follower of an Instagram account which she knew, and Ms Rooney repeatedly asserted, was private, suffice to show that the single meaning is substantially true”.
“The information disclosed was not deeply confidential, and it can fairly be described as trivial, but it does not need to be confidential or important to meet the sting of the libel.”
In the matter of public interest, Justice Steyn continued: “I will express my decision in respect of the public interest defence very briefly”.
“Although Ms Rooney’s interest was essentially personal, on balance, I accept that the Reveal Post was on a matter of public interest, namely the undesirable practice of information (in the nature of mere gossip) about celebrities’ private lives being disclosed to the press by trusted individuals.
“I also accept that Ms Rooney believed, having given several warnings on her Private Instagram Account, as well as a public warning, that it was in the public interest to publish the Reveal Post.”
“However, I do not accept that the belief was reasonable in all the circumstances. In particular, it was not reasonable to believe that it was in the public interest to publish the Reveal Post without taking any steps to put the allegation to Ms Vardy and give her an opportunity to respond.”
“It is no answer to that point that Ms Rooney anticipated that Ms Vardy would deny the allegation.”
“For the reasons that I have given, the claim is dismissed.”
Missing WhatsApp messages
Justice Steyn also concluded the probability that missing WhatsApp message between Vardy and her former agent, Caroline Watt, would have helped Coleen Rooney’s case and that the loss was ‘not accidental’.
“In my judgment, it is probable that Ms Vardy deleted these messages. It is impossible to speculate what the messages and media files exchanged during this period may have shown, but the deletion of this material reinforces my conclusion that the loss by both Ms Vardy and Ms Watt of their original WhatsApp conversation during the key period was not accidental.”
“The timing is striking. In my judgment, even taking this evidence on its own, the likelihood that the loss Ms Watt describes was accidental is slim. It is still more improbable that a computer malfunction at either stage of the export process would have resulted in the deletion of the WhatsApp chat between Ms Vardy and Ms Watt while Ms Vardy’s WhatsApp exchanges with others were (at least in part) retained.”
What Coleen Rooney said about Wagatha Christie verdict
Coleen Rooney released a statement regarding her victory in the High Cort case, in which she reiterated she never wished for it to end up in a courtroom.
“Naturally, I am pleased the judge has found in my favour in her judgement today. It was not a case I ever sought or wanted.”
“Both before and after my social media posts in October 2019, I made constant efforts to avoid the need for such a public and drawn out court case. But all my efforts to do so were knocked back by Mrs Vardy and her lawyers.”
"This left me with no alternative but to go through with the case to defend myself and to end the repeated leaking of my private information to The S*n. The leaks from my private Instagram account began in 2017. They continued for almost two years, intruding on my privacy and that of my family.
"Although I bear Mrs Vardy no ill will, today’s judgement makes clear that I was right in what I said in my Instagram posts.
"Finally, I would to thank all of my legal team, my family and friends and everyone who has supported me - including the public - through this difficult and stressful time."
What Rebekah Vardy said about the Wagatha Christie verdict
Rebekah Vardy has since issued her own statement regarding the decision.
“I am extremely sad and disappointed at the decision that the judge has reached. It is not the result that I had expected, nor believe was just. I brought this action to vindicate my reputation and am devastated by the judge's finding.”
"The judge accepted that publication of Coleen's post was not in the 'public interest' and she also rejected her claim that I was the 'Secret Wag'. But as for the rest of her judgement, she got it wrong and this is something I cannot accept."
“As I explained in my evidence I, my family and even my unborn baby, were subjected to disgusting messages and vile abuse following Coleen's post and these have continued even during the course of the trial. Please can the people who have been abusing me and my family now stop. The case is over.”
"I want to thank everyone who has supported me."
Vardy has also indicated that she will not appeal the decision.
What was the Wagatha Christie case all about?
In order to catch who was selling her stories to the press, Rooney set up an account to have restricted access on who could see what she posted.
Sure enough, these false stories made their way to the press, leading to Coleen Rooney accusing Rebekah Vardy of selling her information to the press.
It coined the now immortal line “It’s… Rebekah Vardy!”
Vardy has continually denied her involvement in the leak.
Vardy commenced to sue Rooney for defamation in June 2020 and at a preliminary High Court hearing on 19 November 2020, Mr Justice Warby found that Rooney had used defamatory words about Vardy.
It was up to Rooney to prove Vardy was personally responsible for leaking stories to The S*n, or convince the judge that publication of the allegation was in the public interest.