Rebekah Vardy has been accused of throwing her former agent and friend “under a bus” in a last-ditch attempt to save her reputation in the “Wagatha Christie” libel trial.
The footballer’s wife was accused – during the third day of a libel trial at the high court on Thursday – of deliberately destroying evidence, habitually leaking stories to the Sun newspaper, and trying to shift the blame on to her adviser Caroline Watt.
The court heard that just days before the trial began, Vardy said she had belatedly realised after almost three years that she may have been “betrayed” by her agent, who was a close friend.
Vardy told the court that it could have been Watt who was secretly leaking stories from Coleen Rooney’s private Instagram account to the Sun – all without Vardy’s knowledge or authorisation.
Rooney’s lawyer, David Sherborne, said this was a desperate last-ditch move by Vardy to stitch up her friend: “It’s not her who betrayed you, it is you who has betrayed her by throwing her under a bus,” he said.
Watt declined to give evidence at the trial, citing health reasons. But Sherborne said the real reason Watt would not enter the witness box was because it would expose the lies that had been told.
In response, Vardy insisted that Watt was unable to attend the court because she had been “driven to suicidal thoughts by these proceedings” and the “antics” of Rooney.
Vardy chose to bring the libel case in a bid to restore her reputation, complaining that Rooney had “weaponised her fanbase” when, in 2019, she made the original accusation that Vardy had leaked stories to the media.
Rooney looked on impassively as the court heard comments Vardy made in a 2019 interview following the original accusation: “Arguing with Coleen is like arguing with a pigeon. You can tell it that you are right and it is wrong but it’s still going to shit in your hair.”
The court also heard of extensive issues with the retrieval of potential crucial evidence in the case – including data contained in a mobile phone dropped in the North Sea.
Vardy said one back-up of her WhatsApp account was missing many key images and voice notes because “something odd happened as I was exporting the files” and they were lost.
Sherborne alleged Vardy had purposefully chosen not to export potentially damaging evidence contained in the WhatsApp account, then disposed of the laptop used to make a back-up. He also claimed Vardy had manually deleted large numbers of messages to and from her agent.
Asked what happened to nine months of missing WhatsApp chats between the two women, Vardy seemed unclear. She said she had “potentially switched phones” during the period and lost the WhatsApp messages in the process but “I can neither confirm or deny that”.
Sherborne alleged in reality it was a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence: “You deleted all of the messages between you and Caroline Watt.”
The lawyer also mocked the suggestion that Watt had accidentally dropped her phone in the North Sea shortly after a request was made to search it for WhatsApp messages. The court heard that Watt “was filming a coastline” while on a boat trip off Scotland when the boat hit a wave and she dropped the device into the water.
Sherborne said he had wanted to search WhatsApp messages held on the phone but it was now “lying at the bottom of sea in Davy Jones’s locker”.
Vardy asked the court: “Who is Davy Jones?” The judge intervened to explain the reference.
Rooney’s legal team have admitted they do not have a smoking gun proving Vardy, the wife of Leicester City player Jamie Vardy, leaked stories about Rooney to the Sun.
However, Sherborne told the court the circumstantial evidence was overwhelming: “If it looks like a leak, it sounds like a leak, and you even used the word ‘leak’, it is more likely than not to be a leak.”
During one exchange, Vardy admitted knowing that her agent was discussing private information about Rooney with Sun journalist Andy Halls – but insisted it was material the newspaper already knew and therefore not a fresh leak.
Sherborne asked Vardy: “You didn’t object at any stage to the fact that Ms Watt was plainly passing on information from Mrs Rooney’s private Instagram account to Andy Halls?”
Vardy replied: “I didn’t think she was passing on any new information.”
Sherborne pressed on: “Take the word ‘new’ out of it. Did you, or did you not, know that Ms Watt was passing on information from Mrs Rooney’s private account?”
Vardy replied: “She was talking to Mr Halls about information that was already being discussed.”
In one WhatsApp exchange read to the court, the agent said a reporter at the Sun wanted to know whether Rooney had definitely crashed her car, a detail that allegedly came from the private Instagram account. Vardy replied with the words: “Haha she deffo did.”
Towards the end of Thursday’s hearing, Vardy – who launched the multimillion pound legal case against Rooney in a bid to clear her public reputation – slumped forward with her head in her hands while being cross-examined. The court took regular breaks as she became tearful.
When Vardy began one answer by saying “if I’m honest”, the barrister snapped back: “I would hope you’re honest because you’re sitting in a witness box.”
At one point Rooney’s barrister described a WhatsApp message in a conversation between Vardy and Watt which said “poor Coleen” followed by “laughing emojis”.
Vardy told the court she disputed this characterisation: “I don’t know whether they’re laughing emojis.”
The lawyer, in an apparent reference to the 😂 emoji, replied: “OK, crying with laughter.”
The trial continues.