Rebekah Vardy ‘faced abuse and ridicule’ including Madeleine McCann claims

By Jess Glass, PA
·4-min read

Rebekah Vardy was subjected to false allegations that she was involved in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann after Coleen Rooney’s social media claims, court documents have said.

Mrs Rooney, 34, was dubbed “Wagatha Christie” on social media for her apparent sleuthing work after she claimed to have posted false stories on her Instagram and narrowed the audience to just Mrs Vardy’s profile to see if they were leaked to The Sun.

The wife of former England star Wayne Rooney said she planted three stories about her travelling to Mexico to “see what this gender selection is all about”, returning to TV, and the basement flooding in her new house.

The message posted on Twitter last October detailed her alleged findings, concluding: “It’s ……………. Rebekah Vardy’s account.”

Fellow footballer’s wife Mrs Vardy, 38, denied the accusations and launched a libel claim in response.

Mrs Vardy’s written claim, filed in June, detailed the “very high levels of public abuse and ridicule” against her and its impact.

Her barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC wrote that she felt suicidal, took three trips to hospital due to her anxiety, and worried about either going into early labour or losing her baby due to the stress.

Mr Tomlinson said: “The claimant has suffered extreme distress, hurt, anxiety and embarrassment as a result of the publication of the post and the events which followed.

“The abuse that followed the post made the claimant feel suicidal. She suffered from severe panic attacks and anxiety which manifested in being scared to leave her house.”

Rebekah Vardy libel proceedings
Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Rebekah Vardy, judge Mr Justice Warby and David Sherborne, representing Coleen Rooney, at the Royal Courts of Justice, in central London, during the first hearing in Mrs Vardy’s High Court libel claim against Mrs Rooney.(Elizabeth Cook/PA)

The filing detailed some of the ways Mrs Rooney’s post was reported and repeated on social media.

Following a tweet from Donald Trump, some users joked that Mrs Vardy was the new leader of the so-called Islamic State terror group, while others later said she was involved in the disappearance of Madeline McCann.

Mr Tomlinson added: “Following the police announcing that a new suspect had been identified in the disappearance of Madeline McCann, the claimant (Mrs Vardy) was the subject of a number of highly distressing publications on Twitter alleging she was the suspect.”

Social media users also posted that Mrs Vardy was involved in a potential hack of the mobile video-conferencing app Houseparty in March this year.

The dramatic ending to Mrs Rooney’s post was also parodied on social media, including on the account of Jeremy Corbyn, then-leader of the Labour Party.

“Now I know for certain which individual is selling off our NHS. It’s …………. Boris Johnson,” Mr Corbyn wrote on the day of last year’s general election.

Mrs Vardy’s husband Jamie, a Leicester City striker, was also targeted.

Mr Tomlinson wrote: “Opposition supporters chanted taunts directed at him in the weeks following the publication of the post, including ‘your wife is a grass’ and ‘Becky Vardy’s a grass’.

“Many of the chants continued for up to five minutes and were repeated several times throughout the 90-minute match.”

Mrs Vardy’s lawyers argue that Mrs Rooney’s post created a “highly damaging, false and permanent ‘digital footprint'” about her that has since become embedded in public discourse and continues to affect her.

Mr Tomlinson added: “The claimant never knows when or where she might be faced with the allegation or reference to the post which causes her great anxiety and upset.”

Mrs Rooney has denied any wrongdoing.

In her written defence filed in October, Mrs Rooney’s lawyers argued her post was “entirely legitimate and justified” and said the stories had been derived from Mrs Vardy’s account, rather than her directly.

David Sherborne, representing Mrs Rooney, said she denied liability for the abuse Mrs Vardy received from third parties, writing: “Such abuse was not foreseeable and is not the responsibility of the defendant.”

According to the document, Mrs Rooney became suspicious after details of a car crash were shared with The Sun in early 2019, using details taken from a post on her private Instagram account.

Mrs Rooney’s lawyers also said Mrs Vardy had had an “exceptionally close relationship” with The Sun and some of its journalists for the purposes of promoting herself or making money from her public profile.