The high-profile libel battle between Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney is finally under way at the high court in London.
Rooney accused Vardy of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the media in October 2019, after she said she carried out a months-long “sting operation”.
The wife of the former England footballer Wayne Rooney became known as “Wagatha Christie” when she publicly claimed Vardy shared three fake stories she had posted on her personal Instagram account with the Sun newspaper.
The fake stories included Rooney traveling to Mexico for a “gender selection” procedure, her planning to return to TV, and the basement flooding at her home.
Rooney wrote: “I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them.
“It’s……….Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Rooney’s post was widely shared and heavily parodied on social media at the time, including on Twitter by Jeremy Corbyn, then-leader of the Labor party.
Vardy, who is married to the Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, denies the accusations and is suing Rooney for libel.
Under English defamation law, the burden of proof nowwill be on Rooney to prove that her post was “substantially true”.
The full trial has begun at the Royal Courts of Justice in London after months of preliminary hearings – none of which have been attended by either Vardy or Rooney.
The case first went to court in November 2020, with a judge finding that Rooney’s post “clearly identified” Vardy as being “guilty of the serious and consistent breach of trust”.
The judge, Lord Justice Warby, also said that “the element of suspense introduced by the multiple dots seems to me designed to raise expectations of a dramatic revelation”.
Since then, several hearings have taken place to prepare for the trial, including one where texts between Vardy and her agent Caroline Watt emerged, in one of which Vardy called someone a “nasty bitch”.
In February, Rooney’s barrister, David Sherborne, told the high court that a “series of unfortunate events” had taken place regarding the evidence in the case, notably Watt’s phone falling into the North Sea.
Vardy’s lawyers have said she has “nothing to hide”.
Most recently, the high court was told by Sherborne that Vardy “appears to accept” that Watt was the source of leaked stories about Rooney that were published in the Sun.
Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Vardy, told the court his client’s new witness statement did not contain “any change whatever in the pleaded case”.
Watt had been due to give evidence in the trial, but was recently found to be “not fit” to take part, also withdrawing her written evidence.
Tomlinson said: “We simply don’t know what the true position is in relation to Ms Watt … She’s not communicating with anybody.”
The trial in front of Mrs Justice Steyn is expected to last seven days.