A courtroom drama mixing celebrities, amateur sleuthing and social media kicked off in London on Thursday, where one famous soccer spouse denies leaking stories about another to the tabloid press.
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Rebekah Vardy is suing Coleen Rooney for libel after Rooney accused her of passing details of private Instagram posts to The Sun newspaper. Vardy denies being the source of the leaks.
Both women are celebrities in their own right, and married to famous footballers — Rooney to former Manchester United and England star Wayne Rooney, Vardy to Leicester City and England striker Jamie Vardy.
Vardy’s lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson, said during a hearing at the High Court that media had dubbed the case “WAG wars,” using a slang term for the wives and girlfriends of soccer stars.
He said the media “have turned this case into something of an entertainment.”
“It is not, from Mrs. Vardy’s point of view, entertaining,” he said. “It has been and continues to be deeply upsetting … She did nothing wrong.”
He said 38-year-old Vardy had suffered “widespread hostility and abuse” after Rooney accused her in a post on Twitter and Instagram — where she has a combined following of almost 2 million — in October 2019.
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Rooney, 34, posted that she had sought the culprit for the leaks by blocking everyone apart from an Instagram page belonging to Vardy from seeing her Instagram stories, and then posting “a series of false stories to see if they made their way into The Sun.”
“I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them,” Rooney posted. “It’s ……………. Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
The amateur detective work led social media users to brand Rooney “Wagatha Christie.”
Tomlinson said the case has been depicted as trivial, but “the impact of this post on Mrs. Vardy was not trivial.”
“She has been subjected to an undue and unjustified attack that has had, and continues to have, an impact on her.”
Rooney’s lawyer, David Sherborne, said “Mrs. Rooney is defending the words as true.”
“She says that Mrs. Vardy was responsible,” Sherborne said, though he added that Rooney had not wanted the dispute to end up in court.
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Tomlinson said the two sides had agreed to halt proceedings until February to make a final attempt to resolve the case without a trial.
Neither Vardy nor Rooney was in court for Thursday’s preliminary hearing.
The Associated Press contributed to this article