A ‘key’ witness in the Wagatha Christie case is ‘not fit’ to give evidence at the forthcoming libel trial between Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney, the High Court has been told.
Mrs Vardy was accused of being a “leaker of others’ private information” on Wednesday, as the preliminary hearing in her libel battle with Ms Rooney got underway today.
London’s High Court heard that the proceedings on Wednesday would cover issues around witness statements and disclosure of material ahead of the trial, due to start next month.
Ms Rooney, the wife of former England player Wayne Rooney, accused Mrs Vardy of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the media in October 2019 after carrying out a months-long “sting operation”.
She was dubbed “Wagatha Christie” when she publicly claimed her fellow footballer’s wife shared fake stories she had posted on her personal Instagram account with The Sun newspaper.
Mrs Vardy, who is married to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, denied the accusations and is now suing Mrs Rooney for libel over what she called an “untrue and unjustified defamatory attack”.
In court this morning, Mrs Rooney’s barrister David Sherborne made an application for third party disclosure against News Group Newspapers Ltd – The Sun’s publisher – which he said was over communications between Mrs Vardy, her agent Caroline Watt and a number of Sun journalists in which the two women were allegedly “passing on stories or information relating to other parties”.
If approved, The Sun’s showbusiness editor Simon Boyle and several other colleagues could face having all their electronic communications forensically analysed to determine if Mrs Vardy was the so-called “secret Wag” who leaked stories to the newspaper.
Mr Sherborne told the court that Mrs Vardy “has an established practice and history of leaking private information about others in particular to The Sun newspaper”, insisting: “She is a leaker or others’ private information”.
However, this point has been repeatedly challenged by Mrs Vardy’s camp as “baseless and untrue”.
She also denies providing information through others, Mr Sherborne said, before arguing that disclosed messages allegedly show Mrs Vardy “doesn’t want to be seen to be the person leaking” personal information, so allows her agent Ms Watt to be “the fall guy”.
He claimed there was a “pattern” of discussions between Mrs Vardy and Ms Watt about other people’s information “that then finds its way into The Sun”.
The court also heard that Ms Watt is allegedly “not fit” to give oral evidence in the upcoming libel trial due to her being “in a fragile state”.
Ms Watt – a former Virgin Atlantic air hostess who has been Mrs Vardy’s agent for the last seven years – was referred to at an earlier hearing after the High Court heard that WhatsApp messages between Mrs Vardy and Ms Watt had been disclosed.
Texts heard in court included Mrs Vardy referring to someone, whose identity is disputed, as a “nasty b***h”.
Mr Sherborne, for Mrs Rooney, previously argued Ms Watt texted Mrs Vardy “it wasn’t someone she trusted. It was me”, when the pair were discussing a complaint by Mrs Rooney about leaked stories.
Mrs Rooney’s legal team subsequently argued that if Mrs Vardy did not leak information herself, Ms Watt did so “acting on her instruction or with her knowing approval”.
At the hearing, Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Mrs Vardy, said Ms Watt “was in a fragile state and had been expressing serious concerns about giving evidence”.
In written arguments, he added that a consultant forensic psychiatrist produced a report which concluded Ms Watt is not fit to provide oral evidence at the High Court trial.