By PA High Court Staff
Rebekah Vardy is due to return to the witness box as her UK High Court libel battle with Coleen Rooney enters the second day of trial.
The two women sat just a few metres apart in a courtroom at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday as what has been dubbed the “Wagatha Christie” trial began.
Mrs Vardy faced around half an hour of questioning at the end of the hearing, and is due to continue giving live evidence on Wednesday.
In a viral social media post in October 2019, Mrs Rooney, 36, said she had carried out a “sting operation” and accused Mrs Vardy, 40, of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the press.
The wife of former England star Wayne Rooney publicly claimed an account behind three fake stories she had posted on her personal Instagram account with The Sun newspaper was Mrs Vardy’s.
Mrs Vardy, who is married to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, denies leaking stories to the media and is suing her fellow footballer’s wife for libel, while Mrs Rooney is defending the claim on the basis her post was “substantially true”.
In her written evidence, Mrs Vardy said she believed Mrs Rooney had made her a “scapegoat” for previous leaked stories about her marriage to Mr Rooney – who accompanied his wife to court on Tuesday.
Going into the witness box shortly before 4pm on Tuesday, Mrs Vardy repeatedly denied leaking information to newspapers, telling the court: “I have been called a leaker and it’s not nice.”
Shortly after questioning whether Mrs Vardy respected people’s privacy, Mrs Rooney’s barrister David Sherborne then asked Mrs Vardy about an interview she gave her about a purported sexual encounter with singer Peter Andre.
Mr Sherborne showed Mrs Vardy an article carrying the headline: “Peter’s hung like a small chipolata, shaved, slobbery, lasts five minutes.”
But Mrs Vardy said that she was “forced into a situation by my ex-husband” to do the interview.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mrs Vardy’s barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC said she had to bring the libel claim to “vindicate her reputation”.
He said in written submissions: “The allegation in the post was and remains false: Mrs Vardy had not leaked information about Mrs Rooney or her friends and family to The Sun newspaper from her private Instagram account.
“Mrs Rooney did not have the ‘irrefutable’ evidence that she claimed to have had: her so-called ‘careful investigation’ was nothing of the sort.
“If anyone had been leaking information from Mrs Rooney’s private Instagram this was not done with Mrs Vardy’s knowledge or approval.”
Summing up Mrs Rooney’s case, Mr Sherborne said it was “a detective story”.
“Like any good detective story, you never find a person standing over the body with a smoking gun,” he said, arguing there was “inference”.
He told Mrs Justice Steyn: “You do not have to be convinced beyond reasonable doubt, you just have to conclude that it is more likely than not that Mrs Vardy was responsible, either directly or through Ms (Caroline – Mrs Vardy’s friend and agent) Watt.”
Mr Sherborne described what he called a series of “most improbable events” that had affected the disclosure of evidence in the case from Mrs Vardy and those around her.
This included Ms Watt’s “poor unfortunate phone” falling into the North Sea “within days” of the court ordering that, even though she was not a party to proceedings, it should be searched for disclosure.
However, Mr Tomlinson said the suggestion that Mrs Vardy and Ms Watt were involved in a “conspiracy” and “campaign of deletion” in relation to evidence in the case is “completely baseless”.
He also told the court that it had not been suggested “that Mrs Vardy was anywhere near the North Sea at the time” Ms Watt’s phone fell into the water, nor that she “knew anything about it”.
Mrs Rooney is defending the claim on the basis of truth and public interest.
The fake stories Mrs Rooney planted on her Instagram during the sting operation featured her travelling to Mexico for a “gender selection” procedure, her planning to return to TV, and the basement flooding at her home.
In the post on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, Mrs Rooney wrote: “I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them.
“It’s ………. Rebekah Vardy’s account.”