A version of this article was first published in May.
LONDON — When tabloid characters publicly spit in a spicy detective, and when the mess is based on an Instagram petty drama that would feel right at home in the hallway of any high school, and when the confrontation reaches a courtroom that pokes and prods at every ticklish detail, it’s a recipe for a saga that many people have found absolutely delicious.
A UK libel case that pitted two footballers’ famous wives against each other hasn’t completely ousted Ukraine or government malfeasance from the pages, but the legal drama has offered a welcome respite to many who enjoy news dessert at the news dinner.
Both sides spent their days in court in May, and now the long-awaited verdict is finally due in London on Friday.
Let’s get you.
I need the basics please.
Colin Rooney, 36, TV presenter, married to Wayne Rooney, former football star.
Rebecca Vardy, 40, is also a TV presenter and is married to Jamie Vardy, also a soccer star.
Ms Vardy is suing Ms Rooney for defamation, a case that was heard last week in London’s High Court, which oversees some of the UK’s most high-profile civil cases.
Footballers’ wives and girlfriends (often shortened to “WAG”) have long been treated by British tabloids as regular celebrities, so the two women were well known until the ensuing Instagram drama.
In October 2019, Ms Rooney publicly revealed that someone had been viewing her private Instagram stories and leaking personal details to the press, and she said she had conducted an extensive sting operation to find the source of the leak.
Instagram allows people to restrict some content to certain people. So, Ms. Rooney said she was posting false stories that were only visible to one account to see if they would get into the press. Of course they did.
In a dramatic exposé posted on Twitter, she revealed the results of her investigation: the account belonged to Ms. Vardy.
So, case closed?
Nope. Ms Vardy denied any involvement, saying several people had access to her Instagram account. She said the prosecution exposed her to a torrent of verbal abuse from the public, especially when she was pregnant. In 2020, she filed a civil defamation lawsuit.
“I would like you to call me if you think about it,” she replied to Ms Rooney.
Wait, sorry, I don’t get the Vagata Christie reference.
WAG, as mentioned earlier, means wives and girlfriends. Agatha Christie was an English writer of detective novels. They say Miss Rooney is a good detective.
It’s clear. So who’s right?
We would like to know. And it’s unclear if we’ll ever get proof.
Hugh Tomlinson, Ms Vardy’s lawyer, said in court last week that Ms Vardy believes her agent, Caroline Watt, may have been the culprit, according to reporters covering the trial. Ms Watt accidentally dropped a phone into the sea that Ms Rooney said contained WhatsApp messages related to the case, this was revealed in court.
Can you sue for this?
Yes. According to defamation lawyers, under English law, anyone who posts defamatory remarks about someone else on social media can be sued for damages.
But libel cases in the High Court are rare, mainly because they are very expensive. Ms Rooney and Ms Vardy refused to settle out of court.
When will we receive an answer?
The trial began on May 10, and closing arguments were delivered a week later. The judge is expected to deliver a verdict on Friday.