By Jess Glass and Tom Pilgrim, PA
Rebekah Vardy “appears to accept” that her PR was the source of leaked stories about Coleen Rooney that were published in The Sun newspaper, Mrs Rooney’s barrister has claimed at the High Court in London.
Mrs Rooney accused Mrs Vardy of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the media in October 2019 after carrying out a months-long “sting operation”.
The wife of former England star Wayne Rooney was dubbed “Wagatha Christie” when she publicly claimed her fellow footballer’s wife shared fake stories she had posted on her personal Instagram account with the newspaper.
Mrs Vardy, who is married to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, denies the accusations and is suing Mrs Rooney for libel.
Mrs Rooney’s lawyers previously claimed that Mrs Vardy had leaked information to The Sun either directly or through her friend and agent Caroline Watt “acting on her instruction or with her knowing approval”.
On Friday, David Sherborne, for Mrs Rooney, claimed that Mrs Vardy believes Ms Watt may have been the source of the stories in a new witness statement provided on Wednesday.
In written submissions, Mr Sherborne said that Mrs Vardy’s new statement “suggests Ms Watt was the source of the leak but claims that [Mrs Vardy] ‘did not authorise or condone her'”.
“It now appears…that she too ‘believes’ that Ms Watt is the source,” Mr Sherborne added.
The barrister continued: “The collapse of Mrs Vardy’s case over the last day has been remarkable.
“As of the evening of April 27 2022, in an abrupt change of position to her pleaded case since the outset, Mrs Vardy appears now to accept Mrs Rooney’s case: that Caroline Watt, Mrs Vardy’s close friend and PR, was the conduit by which stories from the defendant’s private Instagram account were leaked to The Sun through her access via Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Mr Sherborne told the court: “It has become undeniably obvious that Ms Watt is the source and Mrs Vardy, true to form says ‘it wasn’t me, I didn’t realise and I didn’t know anything about what was going on’.”
However, Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Mrs Vardy, told the court that his client’s new witness statement did not contain “any change whatever in the pleaded case”.
He later added: “Mr Sherborne may think that this is an evil conspiracy to deceive his client and the court. We simply don’t know what the true position is in relation to Ms Watt.
“She’s not communicating with anybody. She’s not communicating with anybody on our side and we don’t know what her position is.”
In his written arguments, Mr Tomlinson said there had “been important developments that have occurred” since Mrs Vardy gave her first written statement, but did not explain what they were.
He continued: “These are all matters that are relevant to the proceedings and the issues that the court will need to determine.
“It is appropriate for the court and the defendant to have the claimant’s evidence on these new developments in a further witness statement so that the claimant’s position is made clear.
“These developments are very recent.
“They were completely unexpected and outside the claimant’s control…it has taken her time to process and consider the new information.”
Ms Watt was referred to at an earlier hearing after the High Court in London heard that WhatsApp messages between Mrs Vardy and Ms Watt had been disclosed.
Texts heard in court included Mrs Vardy referring to someone, whose identity is disputed, as a “nasty bitch”.
Ms Watt had been expected to give evidence at the upcoming trial, however, the High Court was told she was “not fit” to give oral evidence at a hearing earlier this month.
Friday’s hearing will include bids from Mrs Rooney’s lawyers for information from News Group Newspapers, the publisher of The Sun newspaper.
Mr Tomlinson said that Mrs Vardy supported this request “in part”, adding: “We have nothing to hide.”
The hearing before Mrs Justice Steyn is due to finish on Friday afternoon, with a judgment expected at a later date.