Tom Pilgrim, PA
Rebekah Vardy had a “desire to be famous” and “no topic was ever really off the table” for her when she featured in Sun newspaper articles, Coleen Rooney has alleged in their High Court libel battle.
In a witness statement prepared for the trial of their high-profile dispute, Mrs Rooney detailed her “growing sense of suspicion” that Mrs Vardy’s Instagram account might be linked to alleged leaks of information from her own private one.
Mrs Rooney said assessing whether friends and family were responsible for allegedly leaking information to The Sun was “a horrible exercise”.
“Despite me being in the public eye for so long and gaining a pretty good idea of how the media works as a result, this whole thing was different to anything I had experienced before,” she said.
Mrs Rooney explained that “there was a relatively limited pool of possible suspects” and she concluded that whoever was responsible had a relationship with The Sun.
She claimed that Mrs Vardy’s account “stood out at that time” because she “often featured prominently in ‘Exclusive’ articles with The Sun which covered a wide range of topics about her own personal life”.
“I always got the impression that no topic was ever really off the table as far as Becky was concerned,” she wrote in her statement.
In her own witness statement Mrs Vardy, who denies leaking information, accused Mrs Rooney of making “a very wide-ranging attack on me and a series of outrageous claims about my dealings with journalists”.
She added that it was “false” that she was “some kind of favoured close collaborator with The Sun and spend my time leaking information to them in exchange for self promotion”.
The court heard on Friday that from late January 2019 Mrs Rooney took to Google for research after she suspected a link with The Sun.
“This whole thing was not something I thought of overnight,” she said, adding: “I’m not one to be quick to jump on things.”
In her statement, Mrs Rooney listed eight “examples” of the “high-profile coverage” Mrs Vardy had previously received in Sun stories.
Mrs Rooney told the court that she “continuously” looked at “what was the connection with The Sun” and “Rebekah’s name came up in things”.
The mother-of-four also listed in her statement a “desire to be famous” as one of the reasons that Mrs Vardy’s Instagram account stood out for her.
She wrote: “In addition to the sheer volume of exclusives Becky had done with The Sun and how the nature of them suggested very close links to the newspaper and journalists, I also considered Becky’s personality and her rise to fame.
“I have been involved in football circles for around 20 years. I’ve come across different types of footballers’ partners, some of them enjoy and seek the limelight and work on it, others get brought into it because of the high-profile nature of their partner.
“I know from my experience in the media that a common tactic of those who want to be famous is that they will stage paparazzi shots with agencies.
“Those shots will then be sold to the tabloid press and the individual in question will split the monies earned from the tabloid press with the paparazzi agent or they will get other benefits such as being able to help control their image in the press.
“Two of the most high-profile agencies of this kind are Fame Flynet and Splash News. I was aware that much of Becky’s press coverage in the tabloid media included photographs of her Fame Flynet and Splash News, made up of both staged paparazzi shots and more formal photoshoot.”
Mrs Rooney further alleged: “Because of her extensive appearances in the tabloid press, her column in The Sun during Euro 2016 and her appearance on ‘I’m A Celebrity’ whilst still relatively unknown, Becky certainly stuck out to me as being someone who actively wanted to be famous.”
In court on Friday, Mrs Rooney also said it was “a regular occurrence” that she would be messaged by Mrs Vardy when there was press coverage about Mrs Rooney.
Mrs Vardy was “not in my circle”, Mrs Rooney said, adding: “I felt like when she contacted me it was to try and get information out of me.”
Mrs Vardy’s messages to her came “when something not nice was going on in my personal life”, Mrs Rooney claimed.
She said Mrs Vardy’s messages were “generally nice”, but added that “towards the end its was a bit unusual”.
“Someone who was not that close to me… constantly checking in with me all the time,” Mrs Rooney said.
She said in her statement: “Over time, I also just got the feeling that she was trying to give the perception of being interested or concerned about me but was really just fishing for information or gossip.”