Rebekah Vardy has said she deeply regrets making unflattering personal remarks about Peter Andre in a newspaper interview, as the multimillion pound “Wagatha Christie” libel trial against Coleen Rooney got under way at the high court.
The trial between the two footballer’s wives is taking place in a wood-panelled Victorian-era courtroom in central London that has heard many important cases over the years – but this could be the first where physiological matters were discussed at such length.
With the leaking of private information at the heart of the much-anticipated case, David Sherborne, acting for Coleen Rooney, asked Vardy whether she was the sort of person who leaked stories to the media.
After Vardy said she was not, the lawyer began reading out excerpts from a 2004 interview Vardy once gave to the News of the World about a one-night stand she supposedly had with singer and entertainer Peter Andre.
Sherborne quoted Vardy’s words from the interview: “Peter’s hung like a small chipolata … the smallest trouser equipment I’ve ever seen.”
After Vardy confirmed she did not seek Andre’s permission to reveal this personal detail in a national newspaper, the barrister asked: “Did you feel particularly strongly about the size of his manhood that it should be made public?”
Vardy insisted she “deeply regrets” the incident and was coerced into giving the interview to the tabloid against her will by her ex-husband, an allegation the ex-husband has previously denied.
The week-long trial pits the two wives of former England footballers – known as Wags – against each other.
In 2019, Rooney conducted an elaborate sting operation to find out who was leaking stories from her private Instagram account to journalists at the Sun, ultimately making the public accusation that: “It’s………… Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Vardy is now suing Rooney for libel, arguing that the accusation was false. After an earlier ruling, it is up to Rooney to prove Vardy was personally responsible for leaking stories to the Sun – or to convince the judge that publication of the allegation was in the public interest.
Rooney and her husband, Wayne Rooney, looked on intently as Vardy gave evidence on Tuesday afternoon.
Rooney’s lawyers accepted they do not have a smoking gun that shows Vardy – the wife of the Leicester City player Jamie Vardy – actively leaking stories from Rooney’s private Instagram account to the Sun.
However, Sherborne told the court this did not matter due to the weight of circumstantial evidence against Vardy.
“In essence this is a detective story,” he said. “Like any good detective story, you never find the person responsible standing over the body with the smoking gun in hand … There’s inference, circumstance, probability and likelihood and ultimately they all add up – so the finger will point to the right suspect or suspects.”
In written submissions, Vardy’s barrister, Hugh Tomlinson QC, denied his client had personally leaked any stories to the Sun, nor had she approved or condoned “anyone else to do so on her behalf”. However, the court did hear Vardy has recently realised her former agent and close friend, Caroline Watt, may have briefed stories to the tabloid without her knowledge.
Tomlinson said the “candid” WhatsApp messages previously heard in court between Vardy and Watt showed that “from time to time they did discuss ‘leaking’ information to the press”. But only one story – a drink-driving incident involving the Chelsea footballer Danny Drinkwater – was mentioned.
As a result, Rooney simply “can’t establish that Mrs Vardy was responsible” for the leaks, Tomlinson told the court. He said that although the “Wagatha Christie” case was being treated as a form of entertainment by much of the media, his client had been “subjected to abuse and threats of a horrific nature” as a result of Rooney’s allegedly false accusation.
Rooney’s legal team argue that Vardy and Watt made a concerted effort to destroy evidence, with a litany of technological accidents affecting the retrieval of WhatsApp messages.
In one incident, Sheborne highlighted how a “poor unfortunate phone” belonging to Watt was accidentally dropped off the side of a boat in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland within “days” of a legal request to search it.
In written submissions, Rooney’s lawyers said these were not a series of “unfortunate” incidents. Instead, they claimed the loss of data was part of a “deliberate and calculated” campaign by Vardy and her team to dispose of potentially incriminating evidence – and prevent a fair trial.
Sherborne said it did not make a difference if it was Vardy’s agent who leaked stories to the Sun on behalf of the footballer’s wife: “It’s like hiring a hitman or woman … just because you’re not the person who gets their hands dirty doesn’t mean you’re not equally responsible.”
He concluded his opening remarks by suggesting the entire case against his client – and the millions of pounds spend on years of legal proceedings – was a pointless endeavour: “This whole court might just think: ‘Why on earth are we here?’”
The case continues.