Rebekah Vardy: Case against her based on 'conspiracy theories' her lawyer says

By Paul Glynn
BBC News at the High Court

  • Published
Rebekah Vardy leaving the Royal Courts of Justice, LondonImage source, James Manning
Image caption,
Rebekah Vardy leaving the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Thursday

The case against Rebekah Vardy is based on "conspiracy theories", her lawyer said on the final day of her High Court libel trial against Coleen Rooney.

Hugh Tomlinson said on Thursday his client had suffered "public abuse and ridicule on a massive scale" and is entitled to "substantial damages".

Mrs Vardy is suing Mrs Rooney for libel for alleging online she had leaked private stories about her to the Sun.

The claimant has denied this and her team said she has nothing to hide.

Mr Tomlinson addressed the court after his counterpart David Sherborne had earlier agued that Mrs Vardy was an unreliable witness.

He said she had brought the case as she wanted to be "vindicated" as there was no real evidence, he claimed, proving she had leaked the stories.

Mrs Vardy's barrister suggested that the libel dispute with Mrs Rooney was a "very simple case" when "one clears away the conspiracy theories".

"Has Mrs Rooney proved that Mrs Vardy leaked the information from her post that she's accused of leaking?" he asked.

Image source, Julia Quenzler
Image caption,
Court drawing shows Justice Steyn and Mrs Vardy's barrister Hugh Tomlinson

"Mrs Vardy's case is and always has been that she did not leak the information nor did she authorise anyone else to leak."

"She does not know to this day what happened," he added. "She does not know where this information came from."

Mrs Rooney has defended herself on the basis of truth and public interest, but Mr Tomlinson said the latter did not apply in this case, adding: "This is really a falling-out between two individuals over what is essentially a private matter."

'Send me the evidence'

The lawyer said his client now accepted it was possible that her former agent Caroline Watt was the source of the leaked stories from Mrs Rooney's private Instagram account.

"She doesn't want to be in the position of accusing her friend and former long-term agent of doing something wrong," he said.

"She sees, as everybody does, the indications that point that way. Her fundamental position is she doesn't know what happened."

He said Mrs Vardy had asked Mrs Rooney, from the get-go, to "send me the evidence, send me the posts."

"The suggestion that she is trying to hide something is quite wrong".

Acknowledging how the defendant, Mrs Rooney, had said she thought Mrs Vardy was suspiciously friendly, Mr Tomlinson countered that "people behave in different ways."

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Coleen Rooney, pictured with Wayne Rooney outside the court earlier this week, did not attend the last day of the trial

He noted how the Sun was "a newspaper that she [Mrs Rooney] clearly loathes" and that she may disapprove of how Mrs Vardy has sometimes featured in it, but that it was "not a basis for making an allegation of the kind that was made".

Mr Tomlinson challenged the idea that messages between Mrs Vardy and Ms Watt showed they were "obsessed" with Mrs Rooney and said they were merely "gossiping".

"There is very little about the Rooneys" in the many of the conversations given in evidence, he said.

"We don't have two women who are obsessed with Mrs Rooney, we have two women who over a period of two years mention her on a few occasions."

'Mistake to trust agent'

The court heard that Mrs Vardy had wanted to call journalists from The Sun to give evidence but they "changed their mind having taken legal advice," Mr Tomlinson said, suggesting their absence "can't be of itself evidence that Mrs Vardy is the source of the stories".

"Mrs Vardy has made mistakes," Mr Tomlinson added. "Perhaps the most serious of these may have been to trust Ms Watt as her agent.

Ms Watt did not give evidence at the trial either as she was deemed unwell. The fact that the agent's phone, containing now lost messages between her and a Sun journalist, had fallen into the North Sea had nothing to do with Mrs Vardy, the barrister said.

"We have no idea as to whether this is a genuine accidental loss of a device or whether it was something done cynically and deliberately to avoid inspection during the disclosure process. We just don't know," he went on.

"From Mrs Vardy's point of view, she does not know either."

Earlier on Thursday, David Sherborne, representing Mrs Rooney, told the court Mrs Vardy lied under oath and deliberately deleted evidence.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Coleen Rooney (left) and Rebekah Vardy, pictured at a Euro 2016 match in France

Mrs Vardy walked out of the court during Mr Sherborne's comments, returning after roughly an hour, having left it carrying her laptop, with one of her legal team.

Mr Tomlinson said the argument that his client had a "conspiracy to delete" was an "incredible theory", adding that a "completely innocent loss of messages" had occurred on both sides.

"There was an export of a very large number of WhatsApp messages," he told the court. "Why would Mrs Vardy, if she was destroying evidence, do it in that selective and complex way?"

"If she was a wicked litigant who was trying to deceive the court by getting rid of damaging evidence, the idea she would do it by getting rid of images and not text simply beggars belief."

The barrister said the exchanges that the court had heard had taken place between Mrs Vardy and Ms Watt were simply "exchanges between two people who do not know who is leaking the stories, or at least Mrs Vardy does not know who is leaking the stories."

He said the only exception to this was a post by Ms Watt which seemed to suggest she was the leak of a story about Mrs Rooney being involved in a car crash. "On analysis, it does not help the defendant's case at all," he said.

"What they show is the contemporaneous evidence that Mrs Vardy does not know what information is going to the Sun."

In his closing statement on Thursday morning, Mr Sherborne said Mrs Vardy had given "implausible, throwaway explanations" and was "lacking in candour."

Image source, Julia Quenzler
Image caption,
Mrs Rooney's barrister David Sherborne set out his closing argument on Thursday morning

Mrs Rooney and her husband, the ex-footballer Wayne, did not attend the court due to a "long-standing travel arrangement" booked before the trial over-ran, and their apologies were passed to Mrs Justice Steyn.

Mrs Vardy's libel action was sparked by a viral social media post from October 2019, in which Mrs Rooney said she had carried out a sting operation to find out who had been passing information about her life, taken from her private Instagram account, to the Sun newspaper.

She said the fake stories she had posted on her Instagram stories in an effort to find the perpetrator had only been viewed by "Rebekah Vardy's account".

Mrs Vardy has continually denied leaking the stories in question to the press.

The fake stories featured Mrs Rooney travelling to Mexico for a "gender selection" procedure, planning to return to TV and the basement flooding at her home.

Mrs Rooney was called "Wagatha Christie" by many people online as a result of her private investigation. Wag is a term used to describe the wives and girlfriends of footballers, while Agatha Christie was a famous English detective novelist.

The case has now ended and the judge will reserve her ruling to a later date.