The online spat between the high-profile wives of former Manchester United star Wayne Rooney and Leicester City player Jamie Vardy has escalated into a High Court battle involving top-name lawyers with costs estimated to run into millions of pounds.
Dressed in a dark suit and wearing a foot brace, Coleen Rooney arrived at the Royal Courts of Justice in London 20 minutes before the hearing began, accompanied by her husband Wayne Rooney in a grey tweed jacket and dark trousers.
Minutes later, Rebekah Vardy stepped out of a car at the kerb wearing sunglasses and a navy blue dress and strode inside, running the gamut of a scrum of photographers. Neither party commented.
Their entrances were filmed for a documentary, while both women are reportedly set to give their side of the story in media deals.
Journalists packed into a courtroom to follow the case as lawyer Hugh Tomlinson gave opening remarks in support of Vardy’s case as she sues Rooney for defamation.
“There’s going to be very little legal argument in this case,” he told the judge, Karen Steyn.
Of interest, Judge Steyn was born in Cape Town before moving to Kent in England.
In 1997, she married Alexander Glassbrook, with whom she has two sons.
Steyn was called to the bar at Middle Temple in 1995. She practised public law, human rights and public international law, from 4–5 Gray’s Inn Square from 1996 to 2000, then 11 King’s Bench Walk from 2000. She took silk in 2014 and was appointed a deputy High Court judge in 2016.
On 1 October 2019, Steyn was appointed a judge of the High Court, replacing the retiring Sir Timothy King and assigned to the Queen’s Bench Division – the part of the High Court which deals with defamation, personal injury and breach of contract claims.
She received the customary damehood in the same year.
Both women have carefully curated social media accounts in their names, featuring pictures of their children.
The case centres on Twitter and Instagram posts from 5 October 2019 where Rooney alleged that someone she trusted had leaked stories to The Sun tabloid.
She said that she blocked followers of her Instagram Stories except for Vardy’s account and posted fake stories that she said made their way into the tabloid.
She alleged that “just one person” viewed the stories, adding: “It’s…… Rebekah Vardy’s account”.
The post went viral with more than 300 000 likes on Twitter and 193 000 on Instagram, Vardy’s lawyer told the court.
Trial has become known as the ‘Wagatha Christie’ case
It became known as the “Wag Wars” and the Wagatha Christie case, he said.
He said his client had faced horrific online abuse calling her “rat-faced” and saying her baby should be incinerated.
“She had no choice but to bring this libel action,” he said.
“She needs to be able to clear her name through this court so she can move on.”
Vardy’s lawyer argued Rooney would have been aware that more than one person could have access to Vardy’s social media accounts and could not have been sure that she was the one leaking stories.
David Sherborne, the lawyer for Rooney, said in a written submission the case would centre on whether Vardy knew that her PR agent was leaking stories and condoned this or was unaware of this.
A London judge gave initial backing to Vardy in November.
The trial, due to run till next Wednesday, will see both women give evidence in court.
By Garrin Lambley © Agence France-Presse