Coleen Rooney has been told she cannot provide “one shred of evidence” that Rebekah Vardy leaked stories from a private Instagram account to the Sun – but insisted she has strong reason to “believe” Vardy was responsible based on circumstantial clues.
Rooney told the “Wagatha Christie” libel trial that leaks from her private Instagram account to the Sun caused issues when she was dealing with difficulties in her marriage to former footballer Wayne Rooney. She said one private Instagram post in 2017 made its way to the tabloid at a time she and Rooney were “trying to figure out our relationship” and were spending time apart, after he crashed his car while drink-driving with another woman in the vehicle.
She said it was upsetting when the Sun learned of the private photo, which suggested the family were back together. “I didn’t know how my marriage was going to work out and whether I was going on with my relationship,” she told the high court in London. “We needed to try and work things out.”
Vardy’s lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson QC, put it to Coleen Rooney that there was not “a shred of evidence” that Vardy had leaked private Instagram material about the couple to the Sun. He suggested that another one of Rooney’s 300-plus followers may have been responsible for passing information to journalists at the tabloid.
Rooney said: “It was someone who was on my Instagram account and I believe that it was Mrs Vardy.”
Tomlinson replied: “I didn’t ask what you believe, I asked if you could be sure.”
He repeatedly told Rooney that beliefs do not count as hard evidence: “You might believe Derby County might win the Premiership in two years’ time. It’s not evidence is it?”
Wayne Rooney, the Derby County manager, did not react when he heard the jibe about his football team, which have been recently relegated to League One – the third tier of English football – amid financial difficulties.
Coleen Rooney is being sued for libel by fellow footballer’s wife Vardy, who denies Rooney’s public accusation that she passed stories from Rooney’s Instagram account to the Sun newspaper. Vardy is married to the Leicester City striker, Jamie Vardy.
Rooney insisted there was overwhelming evidence that Vardy’s Instagram account was accessing the leaked material. “I thought a lot about this,” she said. “I’ve been in the public eye for 20 years. I’ve become quite savvy to the way people work and journalists work. I hate gossips, I’m not a gossip. It all added up to me that it came from this account.”
She said she became “really suspicious” that Vardy was leaking to the Sun because Vardy actively sought publicity for herself, had previously provided exclusives to the Sun and had exchanged unusual messages with Rooney.
Early in 2019 Rooney blocked Vardy from viewing the account, only for Vardy to message her and ask for access to be restored. Rooney said this complaint made her even more suspicious that Vardy was responsible for the leaks – leading her to run a now-infamous sting operation in which Rooney posted fake updates in order to see which ended up as stories in the Sun.
Under cross-examination, Rooney repeatedly detailed her strong dislike of the Sun newspaper and said her life “has been picked apart by the media for the last 20 years”.
In an early pretrial hearing a judge ruled that the true meaning of Rooney’s 2019 public accusation that “it’s ……… Rebekah Vardy’s account” was a direct allegation that Vardy herself had leaked to the Sun – rather than simply anyone with access to Vardy’s account. As the person who made the accusation, it is up to Rooney to prove that her claim was truthful or in the public interest.
For her part Vardy has argued that her agent, Caroline Watt, may have been leaking the material to the Sun without her knowledge. Although Vardy has acknowledged that her agent was discussing private information about Rooney with a Sun journalist, she has insisted that she was not the original source of any leaks.
Rooney told the court that paparazzi take pictures of her “most days” and that her life in the US, where she moved to be with her husband in 2018 while he played for DC United, had been miserable. She said she “cried every night” while living overseas because she missed her family and the leak of a private Instagram story about a supposed car crash to the Sun made it harder.
She told the court: “I don’t understand why the press are interested in most things – I wouldn’t want to read the stuff they write about me because most of what they write about me is ridiculous.”
Vardy’s lawyer replied: “That may be something we can agree on.”
Earlier in the day Vardy finished being cross-examined after four days of evidence in which she was accused of habitually leaking information to the Sun, destroying evidence on purpose, and helping journalists obtain information about Rooney.
Vardy said the experience of being cross-examined was “exhausting” and “intimidating”. But she stood by the decision to bring the case in order to restore her public reputation. “I didn’t do anything wrong and I want to clear my name, not just for me but for my family and my children,” she said.
The trial continues.