Trial of Vagata Christie: judge finds no slander

LONDON — It began as an Instagram spat between the spouses of two British football stars and escalated into a libel lawsuit that has become a welcome distraction for a nation in turmoil.

On Friday, the High Court ended a long-standing legal feud by ruling against plaintiff Rebecca Vardy, saying her ex-girlfriend Colleen Rooney did not slander her.

In the verdict, Judge Karen Stein ruled that the reputational damage sustained by Ms Vardy was not what she called a “slander bite.” For that reason, she said in a written decision released on Friday, “the case is dismissed.”

The judge also punished M. Vardy, who filed a lawsuit against Ms Rooney in June 2020, writing that she routinely leaked information about her former girlfriend to the press, adding that “significant parts of her evidence are not credible.”

“There were many cases where the plaintiff’s testimony clearly contradicted contemporary documentary evidence, was evasive or implausible,” Stein wrote in the decision.

Combining low stakes and high melodrama, the dispute between Ms. Vardy and Mr. Rooney did not become the court of the century. But the case attracted months of tabloid attention at a time when Britain was in dire straits. persistent pandemic and struggling economy while it Prime Minister was on the ropes.

Mrs. Vardy, wife of Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, and Rooney, who is married to former Manchester United star Wayne Rooney, belongs to a group known as WAG, a common, if sexist, tabloid acronym for “wives and girlfriends” of professional athletes especially Premier League players.

In 2019, Rooney suspected that a follower of her personal Instagram account was selling information about her gleaned from her posts to The Sun, a London-based tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch known for its scathing celebrity reporting. To find out about the alleged leak, Ms Rooney set a trap: she made her Instagram stories visible only to Vardy and used the account to spread false information about herself. Then she waited to see if it would get into the press.

At the end of a months-long special operation, Ms. Rooney claimed that M. Vardy was the culprit. She made the allegation in a social media statement in the fall of 2019 that went viral. Because of his sleuth tactics, Ms. Rooney became known as “Wagata Christie”, a mix of WAG and Agatha Christie, a 20th-century mystery writer.

Mrs. Vardy quickly denied that she was a leak. Then she said she hired forensic computer experts to determine if anyone else had access to her Instagram account. After an unsuccessful mediation, Mr. Vardy filed a defamation suit against Ms. Rooney in the High Court, which hears high-profile civil cases in the UK.

In May of this year, the case went to trial. The process, officially named Vardy v. Rooney, became known as the Wagat Christie process. The term was so common that it appeared in Sky News scans next to “War in Ukraine”.

Tabloid photographers and cable news correspondents flocked to the steps of London’s Royal Court of Justice for the nine-day event, which turned out to be not only a detective but also a fashion spectacle.

Mrs. Vardy, 40, arrived in a variety of outfits, including a buttery yellow tweed suit by Alessandra Rich and a blazer by Alexander McQueen. On the left leg, Miss. Rooney, 36, wore a medical boot, a clumsy plastic contraption that she paired with Chanel loafers, Gucci loafers and Gucci flip flops. She suffered a fracture as a result of a fall in her home.

Mrs. Vardy testified for three days. “I did not give any information to the newspaper,” she said during interrogation at the beginning of her testimony. “I’ve been called a leak and that’s not good.”

There were a lot of TV-worthy plot twists in the trial. In court, it turned out that the laptops were lost, and the WhatsApp correspondence between the lady was lost. Vardy and her agent, Caroline Watt, in what appeared to be a disparaging remark about Ms. Rooney has mysteriously disappeared. Mrs. Vardy’s lawyer added that Ms Watt “unfortunately” dumped an iPhone with WhatsApp messages into the North Sea. Mrs. Rooney’s lawyer David Sherborne responded that the accident appeared to have led to the cover-up of evidence.

“The story is really suspicious, no pun intended,” he said.

Mrs. Vardy told the court she could “neither confirm nor deny” what exactly happened to her missing digital data. At another point, she began her response with the phrase “to be honest”, causing Ms. Barrister Rooney to snap: “I hope you are honest, because you are sitting as a witness.”

Pieces fake information that Ms Rooney has enabled an Instagram account that is only visible to Ms. The Vardis weren’t amazing. As part of his special operation, Ms. Rooney claimed that she and her husband were going to Mexico for “gender selection treatment” because Mr. Rooney wanted their fifth child to be a girl. She also revealed that the basement of the couple’s new home near Manchester, valued at $25 million, was flooded. These and other ersatz facts made it into The Sun’s coverage of all things WAIT.

Although Ms. Vardy has repeatedly said she had nothing to do with the leaks — and went so far as to launch an expensive legal campaign that turned out to be a futile attempt to prove her innocence — the judge in the case was unimpressed by her claims. . In his analysis of Ms. Vardy, Mrs. Stein noted “some degree of self-deception on her part regarding the extent of her involvement”.

The case has received so much media attention because WAG – like the players in the Real Housewives franchise in the United States – have a big place in the British cultural imagination. They are constantly photographed. They star in reality shows, have their own fast fashion lines and a false eyelash business. A series inspired by their shopping habits, feuds, and personal lives, Footballers’ Wives became a hit in the early 2000s.

WAG’s breakthrough moment came in 2006 when a group of them brought the staid resort town of Baden-Baden to life during that year’s World Cup, which was held in stadiums across Germany. The ringleader was Victoria Beckham, who rose to fame as Posh Spice in the Spice Girls before marrying linebacker great David Beckham. Also on the trip: Colin McLaughlin, 20, who dated Mr Black. Beckham’s teammate Mr. Rooney and later married him.

The tabloids swallowed it. Reports from Baden-Baden featured WAG singing “We Are the Champions” from a hotel balcony, dancing on tabletops and drinking champagne, vodka and Red Bull until dawn. During the day, women made grand purchases and sunbathed while the paparazzi filmed them.

When England lost in the quarter-finals to Portugal, some Sports experts unfairly accuse WAG for defeat. As expected, the tabloids that made them famous tried to destroy them. “Empty World of VAGs” was the headline finger waving thing in the Daily Mail.

Years later, Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy played together for England, adding to the delightful awkwardness of the recent trial.

Litigation fits in perfectly with a culture that sometimes revels in images of how stupid it can be – see also the hit TV show Love Island. It also touched on betrayal and lies, which defined themes in Britain as Prime Minister Boris Johnson subjected to fines for violating lockdown rules and then announced that he would resign after his party ousted him due to other deceptions.

The trial also exposed the complexities of the British class system. Online jokes from those following the case centered on Oxford-trained lawyers reading aloud text messages filled with profanity from women who are often dismissed as superficial or “free” to borrow Ms’s word. Vardy is used of Mr. Rooney’s cousin.

Unlike other high-profile court battles this year, Depp vs Heard, these hearings were not broadcast live, adding to the appeals. In the old-school courtroom sketches, the sides looked like potatoes, the moon, and, in the words of one commentator, “Norman Bates’ mother.”

The images gave the whole affair a lo-fi feel, which was fitting considering WAG’s joy has always been how un-Hollywood they are. And in the recently concluded lawsuit, Ms. Vardy and, to a lesser extent, M. Rooney gave everything Britain has ever wanted from WAG – drama and backstab, brandishing designer bags as they went into battle.

For those who missed the trial or couldn’t get enough of it, don’t worry: British television network Channel 4 announced this week that it has planned a two-part docudrama based on adversity.