Rebekah Vardy’s agent dropped her phone in the North Sea as part of a concerted effort to destroy evidence, it was alleged on the final day of the “Wagatha Christie” libel trial.
Caroline Watt’s phone went over the side of a boat last August while on a family holiday. The incident took place just days after Coleen Rooney’s lawyers asked to search the phone for WhatsApp conversations that could provide potential evidence of stories about Rooney being leaked to the Sun.
Watt has maintained it was an unfortunate incident that occurred after the boat hit a wave while she was filming the Scottish coastline.
Rooney’s barrister David Sherborne told the high court that it was “far from an accident”. He said it was “inexplicable” that Vardy did not tell her own lawyers for four months that her agent’s phone had ended up on the sea floor.
“The story is fishy enough – and no pun intended,” Sherborne said.
Vardy previously told the court her side of the same WhatsApp conversations were unavailable, possibly due to her getting a new phone – although she “cannot confirm or deny” that she changed her device. Rooney’s lawyers argue they were manually deleted on purpose.
Sherborne alleged that the phone falling into the sea was part of a concerted effort by Vardy to “cover up incriminating evidence”. He alleged Vardy, the wife of the Leicester City footballer, Jamie, and her agent feared both copies of their conversations would be viewed by Rooney’s team and used as evidence.
“It was therefore, we say, necessary for both to be destroyed. RIP Ms Watt’s phone,” he added. “If Ms Watt’s phone hadn’t been destroyed then [Vardy’s] messages with her would still have been accessible to us, and the court.”
Vardy was present in court for the final day of her multimillion-pound libel trial against Rooney, which she chose to bring after Rooney alleged Vardy was leaking stories from a private Instagram account to the Sun. Rooney and her husband, Wayne, were absent for the first time during the trial after leaving for a family holiday, which was booked with the expectation the trial would finish by Wednesday.
Sherborne said Vardy had failed to call key witnesses, including her agent, leaving significant people missing from the case: “We have Hamlet, not just without the prince, but also the entire royal court.”
He insisted Vardy had a long history of giving stories to the Sun “about her boob jobs and resting bitch face”, arguing she often sought media attention and passed information to the newspaper.
Due to the absence of direct evidence, Rooney’s legal defence has relied on a 300-year-old court ruling, Armory v Delamirie, involving a chimney sweep who found a piece of jewellery while cleaning a fireplace. When the chimney sweep got it valued, a jeweller surreptitiously removed the gems – leaving behind a number of empty sockets.
The 1722 legal ruling set a precedent that if the court can tell that evidence is missing, then the assumption should be that what is missing is of the highest possible value that would fit the hole. Rooney’s lawyers argue this precedent applies just as much in a case involving a missing gem in a piece of 18th century jewellery as it does in the case of missing WhatsApp messages sent by a footballer’s wife.
Sherborne told the court the messages that were recovered from Vardy’s phone – in which Rooney was allegedly called a “cunt” and a “bitch” – were truly damning and embarrassing.
As a result he argued that “one can only imagine how badly [Vardy’s] position would look were the court to have access to what she was able to successfully delete. What remains cannot be anything other than the tip of the iceberg.”
He said it was “nonsensical” that Vardy did not try to to pass on information about Rooney to the Sun, and that her only concern was being caught.
Sherborne insisted Vardy was equally responsible for leaking the information even if it was her agent who was actually sending the messages: “She is not concerned about doing the dirty – just concerned about being seen to have done it.”
The barrister said his client had suffered as a result of Vardy’s insistence on bringing the case: “Mrs Rooney didn’t want to go through a trial, nor did her husband, who described the effect it has had on them and their family.”
He stated: “Anyone could be forgiven for wondering why on earth this case has been allowed to get this far.”
The case continues.