Judge rules Instagram post could be read as an allegation and not meant as ‘reasonable grounds to suspect’
Coleen Rooney’s Instagram post about the suspected source of leaks of private information in the so-called “Wagatha Christie” row implied that Rebekah Vardy had “secretly informed the Sun newspaper of Ms Rooney’s private posts and stories”, a judge ruled on Friday.
In a victory for Vardy that sets the parameters for her libel action against Rooney, Mr Justice Warby rejected the contention that the post simply meant that there were “reasonable grounds to suspect” Vardy, as Rooney’s lawyers had argued.
Instead, he largely agreed with Vardy’s lawyers, saying that the message should be read as a clear allegation that “over a period of years Ms Vardy had regularly and frequently abused her status as a trusted follower of Ms Rooney’s personal Instagram account”.
Warby added: “The whole purpose of the post, on the face of it, is to identify publicly the someone, the person whom Ms Rooney has ‘clearly’ identified as being guilty of the serious and consistent breach of trust that she alleges. The ordinary reader would not regard the post as merely telling him or her who it is that Ms Rooney suspects, or as simply raising Ms Vardy’s guilt as no more than one possibility, among others.”
Warby’s ruling decides the question of what an “ordinary reader” would take from Rooney’s post, which set off social media hysteria when it was published last year and earned Rooney the nickname “Wagatha Christie”.
In her post, Rooney said “Rebekah Vardy’s account” had been leaking stories from her private Instagram account to the Sun newspaper. Rooney, 34, is married to the former England captain Wayne Rooney, and Vardy, 38, to Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy.
Rooney claimed she had spent five months slowly reducing the number of people who could see her updates on Instagram stories until only Vardy’s account remained. Rooney then posted a fictitious announcement on Instagram reporting that the basement of her new house had been flooded.
When the flood appeared as a news story in the Sun, she published her now-infamous Instagram post, concluding: “It’s ……………. Rebekah Vardy’s account”. The meaning of that phrase was at the heart of Warby’s ruling on Friday.
In her formal libel claim to the court, Vardy’s lawyers said she received vicious threats and abuse because of Rooney’s accusations. She consequently suffered “extreme distress, hurt, anxiety and embarrassment.” The offensive insults, it was said, made Vardy “feel suicidal”.
News – Rebekah Vardy wins in first stage of Coleen Rooney libel action