Wagatha Christie feud: Rebekah Vardy may have to pay £1.5m in costs to Coleen Rooney

Wagatha Christie feud: Rebekah Vardy may have to pay £1.5m in costs to Coleen Rooney

Rebekah Vardy is expected to pay an estimated £1.5 million in legal costs to Coleen Rooney after her failed ‘Wagatha Christie’ libel action.

The wife of Leicester striker Jamie Vardy, 40, sued Rooney, 36, over a 2019 bombshell accusation of leaking stories to the media.

Vardy insisted Rooney’s claim was untrue and had damaged her reputation, but after a High Court trial a judge found the WAG had been leaking stories to The Sun.

Now, Vardy has been ordered to pay 90 per cent of Rooney’s legal costs from the blockbuster trial - predicted to be a total of £1,501,000 - starting with a payment of £800,000 by November 15.

Vardy, who will have to shoulder her own court bill, must also pay out for the legal representation for a series of journalists that were drawn into the dispute.

Making the order on Tuesday, Mrs Justice Steyn said Vardy’s decision to delete messages and destroy evidence in the case means she has to face higher “indemnity” costs

“What takes this case out of the norm in a way which compels the conclusion that I should make an order for indemnity costs is that in my judgment following the trial I found that the Claimant - and also her former agent - had deliberately deleted or destroyed evidence”, she said.

“Even if I were to disregard the actions of the Claimant’s former agent on the basis that it was not put to the Claimant that she procured the disposal of the phone and I made no such finding, the point remains that I found the Claimant deliberately deleted or destroyed evidence.

“Such behaviour is outside the ordinary and reasonable conduct of proceedings. In all the circumstances, I consider it appropriate to order the Claimant to pay costs on the indemnity basis.”

The Wagatha Christie dispute blew up after Rooney carried out a sting operation to find the source of leaks from her private Instagram account.

The now-notorious post by Rooney revealed she had conducted a months-long investigation into the source of the leaks, suspecting one of her friends or contacts was responsible and concluding by saying: “It’s ……….Rebekah Vardy’s account.”

Rebekah Vardy outside the High Court with her husband Jamie (PA Wire)
Rebekah Vardy outside the High Court with her husband Jamie (PA Wire)

Vardy immediate launched a furious offensive against the claim, insisting she had never leaked stories to the media and criticising Rooney for going public with the accusation.

But in a disastrous escalation of the row Vardy sued for libel, bringing damaging messages between her and agent Caroline Watt into the public domain.

The feud between Rooney and Vardy, the wives of England strikers Wayne and Jamie, was simmering in secret at the start of 2019, when Rooney suspected a leak.

On her private Instagram account where only selected friends and associates could see the content, she would post personal updates relating to Wayne and their children.

Coleen Rooney with husband Wayne during the trial (PA Wire)
Coleen Rooney with husband Wayne during the trial (PA Wire)

Rooney noticed leaked information to The Sun newspaper and sent two warning shots to her followers, calling out the “grass” responsible.

She then launched a sting operation to catch the culprit, posting fake social media updates and whittling down her followers until only Vardy was left.

Bogus stories planted by Rooney – about baby gender selection and having a flooded basement - made headline news and Vardy was confirmed as the prime suspect.

Rooney instantly attracted the nickname “Wagatha Christie” when her sleuthing was revealed and went viral in October 2019. She told the High Court: “It wasn’t hard, anyone could do it”, but admitted the scandal had spiralled out of control.

“At the time of doing it, it was important, but I feel in public it’s been made a lot bigger than what it was”, she said.

Vardy’s denial at the time was insistent – she would never leak stories to the media and was not to blame.

During the trial she likened Rooney to a “school bully” and broke down in tears as she described the torrent of online abuse she had faced, at a time when she was heavily pregnant.

But Vardy also had to face questions about whether she had leaked information to the media about her husband’s teammates Danny Drinkwater and Riyad Mahrez, as well as texts with Ms Watt branding Rooney an “attention seeker” and “desperate”.

Vardy claimed she was “absolutely just joking” when she told her agent to leak a story about a married TV star’s affair, but accepted she had tried to pass information on Drinkwater’s drink drive arrest to a journalist, telling Ms Watt: “I want paying for this”.

She was also accused of staging paparazzi photos without asking for permission from other England team WAGs.

When Rooney complained about a car crash story ending up in the news, Ms Watt messaged Vardy to say the source of the leak “wasn’t someone she trusted. It was me”.

Vardy, whose case relied on her not knowing about media leaks, told the court she had been distracted from the WhatsApp message by Gemma Collins falling over on Dancing on Ice.

The wealth of messages emerged despite an extraordinary series of incidents where phone and computer data was lost before being disclosed to Rooney’s legal team, and Ms Watt said she dropped her phone off the side of a boat and into the North Sea.

Ms Watt ultimately did not give evidence in the trial on health grounds, leaving Rooney’s team to accuse Vardy of a “cover-up” of potentially incriminating evidence.

In today’s ruling, the judge said Vardy must pay the legal costs for Andrew Halls, Simon Boyle, Amy Brookbanks, Issy Sampson, Rachel Dale, Stephen Moyes and Richard Moriarty.

The journalists had been drawn into the row as Vardy tried to prove that while she may have links to journalists, she did not leak stories.

However, they were ultimately not called as witnesses after Ms Watt withdrew from the case.