By Jess Glass and Tom Pilgrim, PA
Wayne Rooney has described the “traumatic” impact of the last two-and-a-half years on his wife Coleen as he gave evidence on the penultimate day of the “Wagatha Christie” libel trial.
In a viral social media post in October 2019, Mrs Rooney, 36, said she had carried out a “sting operation” and accused Rebekah Vardy, 40, of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the press.
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”.
Mr Rooney, a former England captain, has attended court with his wife for each of the six days of the trial, sitting in the front row of Court 13 in the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
On Tuesday, the 36-year-old moved into the witness box to give his evidence to the packed courtroom.
Mr Rooney told the court that the period after his wife’s “reveal” post had been “very traumatic” for her and that he had watched her “really struggle”.
“For me and my wife, we don’t want to be in this court,” Mr Rooney said.
“I’ve watched my wife over the last two-and-a-half years really struggle with everything, becoming a different mother, a different wife.
“It’s been very traumatic for my wife.”
Mr Rooney later described how he was asked by then England manager Roy Hodgson and then assistant manager Gary Neville to speak to Mr Vardy to ask his wife to “calm down” during the Euro 2016 tournament.
The Derby County manager said Mrs Vardy had a column in The Sun newspaper at the time.
Mr Rooney said the two footballers had gone into a games room to sit down and speak, with Mr Vardy having a can of Red Bull and Mr Rooney a coffee.
Mr Rooney said: “They asked me, as captain, would I be able to speak to Mr Vardy on issues regarding his wife and I think we all knew that it was an awkward subject.
“I’d need to speak to Mr Vardy and ask him to speak to his wife and ask him to say to ask his wife to calm down.”
Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Mrs Vardy, said: “Ask his wife to calm down? She wasn’t dancing on tables.”
Mr Rooney replied: “No, she wasn’t, as far as I was aware.”
Mr Rooney said he “100%” had the conversation with Mr Vardy but did not know if he then spoke to his wife.
In a statement issued by Mr Vardy’s representatives outside the hearing, the Leicester City player said: “Wayne is talking nonsense.
“He must be confused because he never spoke to me about issues concerning Becky’s media work at Euro 2016.
“There was nothing to speak about, I know this because I discuss everything with Becky.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the High Court heard from two experts over issues relating to the data from both women’s phones.
Mr and Mrs Vardy left proceedings early in the afternoon because she was “not feeling very well”, the court was told.
Ian Henderson, an expert instructed by Rebekah Vardy’s lawyers, said he found it “surprising” that there was an “absence” of WhatsApp messages between her and agent Caroline Watt after Mrs Vardy tried to export messages from her device to her solicitors.
David Sherborne, for Mrs Rooney, put it to the expert that he described the “absence of this data being caused by the uploading process” as “somewhat surprising”, with Mr Henderson agreeing that he remembered saying that.
“Clearly by surprised you’re saying that that is not what you would expect to have happened?” Mr Sherborne added.
“That is correct,” Mr Henderson replied.
The court also heard evidence from an expert instructed by Mrs Rooney, Matthew Blackband, who claimed that there was a “high probability” that “manual deletion” was the most likely explanation for loss of data in relation to messages between Mrs Vardy and Ms Watt prior to October 15 2019.
Mr Blackband also suggested that “manual deletion” was an explanation for the loss of data in relation to messages between the two women for the period from October 15 2019 up to July 25 2020.
It is now expected that both Mr Tomlinson and Mr Sherborne will give their closing speeches on Thursday, with no hearing on Wednesday.
Mrs Justice Steyn is also expected to give her decision in writing at a later date.
Mrs Rooney is defending the libel claim brought by Mrs Vardy on the basis of truth and public interest.
The libel battle comes after Mrs Rooney publicly claimed that an account behind three fake stories in The Sun which she had posted on her personal Instagram account was Mrs Vardy’s.
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, she 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.”