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Coleen Rooney sent the viral post accusing “Rebekah Vardy’s account” of leaking her private information to The Sun as a “last resort”, the footballer’s wife has told the High Court at the start of her evidence.
In a viral social media post in October 2019, Mrs Rooney, 36, said she had carried out a “sting operation” and accused Mrs Vardy, 40, of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the press.
Mrs Vardy, who is married to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, denies leaking stories to the media and is suing her fellow footballer’s wife for libel, while Mrs Rooney is defending the claim on the basis her post was “substantially true”.
Mrs Rooney wanted to catch the account responsible for leaking her information “red-handed”, she told the court in her written evidence.
In her witness statement, Mrs Rooney said she had made two warning posts and temporarily removed Mrs Vardy from her account “but nothing had worked”.
She continued: “I wanted to catch the account responsible ‘red-handed’ as it were and so I came up with a plan.”
Describing her plan, Mrs Rooney said: “I decided that I would invent and fabricate a story, limit accessibility in such a way so that it was only Becky’s Instagram account that could view it, upload it to Instagram via Instagram Stories for a period of 24 hours so that it was only ‘Seen By’ Becky’s Instagram account and then I would wait and see whether my fabricated/invented story, which had only been seen by Becky’s Instagram account, appeared in The Sun.”
She added: “For the avoidance of any doubt, I did not mention this plan or the content of the Sting Operation to anyone or discuss it with any person at any time.
“Nobody knew the detail of what was going on apart from me. It killed me not telling anyone about it but I managed it.”
On Friday afternoon, Mrs Rooney started her evidence in the Royal Courts of Justice and was questioned by Mrs Vardy’s barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC.
Asked what she set out to achieve with the widely shared post, Mrs Rooney replied: “I wasn’t achieving anything, what I wanted was to stop the person who was leaking my private information to The Sun.”
Mrs Rooney added that she had given out warnings “many times”, but “it didn’t stop”.
“This was my last resort,” she continued.
Mr Tomlinson suggested that Mrs Rooney must have known that the social media post would have led to abuse of Mrs Vardy, to which she replied: “No, that was not my intention at all, not at all,” adding: “It’s not in my nature to.”
The footballer’s wife was watched as she gave evidence by her husband Wayne, with Mrs Vardy sitting on the other side of the courtroom.
Mrs Rooney’s post was widely shared and heavily parodied on social media at the time, including by the Twitter account of Jeremy Corbyn, then-leader of the Labour Party.
She told the court that she was surprised by “how much interest” her social media post caused.
“Obviously it was going to get picked up by the media,” she said, explaining that her life had been covered by the media for the last 20 years “no matter how big or small” something was.
Asked by Mr Tomlinson if she had a “large loyal following” on social media, Mrs Rooney replied: “I have a large following, yes – loyal, I’m not too sure about.”
Friends and family are the most important to me and it was messing with my head that someone who I trusted was doing this to me. It annoyed and hurt me
Mrs Rooney said she had “always been confident in the truth” of her viral post accusing Mrs Vardy of leaking her private information to The Sun newspaper.
She wrote in her witness statement: “I have always been confident in the truth of what I posted on October 9 2019 and the documentation which Becky has disclosed as part of these proceedings, in particular her WhatsApp conversations with her agent Caroline Watt, has only further reinforced my view on that.”
Mrs Rooney continued: “Friends and family are the most important to me and it was messing with my head that someone who I trusted was doing this to me.
“It annoyed and hurt me.
“It even messed with my friends and family because they felt like I suspected them of being responsible.”
Mrs Rooney is defending the libel claim brought by Mrs Vardy on the basis of truth and public interest.
The libel battle comes after Mrs Rooney publicly claimed that an account behind three fake stories in The Sun that she had posted on her personal Instagram account was Mrs Vardy’s.
The fake stories Mrs Rooney planted on her Instagram during the sting operation featured her travelling to Mexico for a “gender selection” procedure, her planning to return to TV, and the basement flooding at her home.
In the post on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, she wrote: “I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them. “It’s ………. Rebekah Vardy’s account.”