Leicester City footballer Jamie Vardy has been dragged into his wife’s “Wagatha Christie” legal battle with Coleen Rooney, after a high court judged ruled his phone and computer could be searched for relevant material.
The long-running legal case centres on allegations that Rebekah Vardy leaked stories about fellow footballer’s wife Rooney to journalists at the Sun. The court heard details of the enormous costs that have been run up by both sides in the case, which are already on track to top more than £1m.
In a setback for Rebekah Vardy, a high court judge ruled on Wednesday that her husband and people on her management team should have their phones and other electronic devices searched for any relevant communication. This material would then be made available to lawyers for Rooney, who is married to the Derby County manager, Wayne Rooney.
Judge Roger Eastman concluded on Wednesday that due to the ease with which Instagram messages can be forwarded – and the multiple people who had access to Vardy’s Instagram account – it made sense to allow third-party experts to look for related material on the devices of those closely connected to her.
People with access to Vardy’s Instagram account included her agent Caroline Watt, her husband, Jamie, and her husband’s social media manager.
“For the purposes of instructing the experts I am perfectly satisfied their devices are up for grabs for inspection and analysis by the experts,” said Eastman at the virtual hearing.
“In order for the expert to explore what has gone on … they need to have access to more than just the personal devices of Mrs Vardy and Mrs Rooney.”
Vardy’s lawyers had asked for details of Rooney’s conversations with agents and other representatives, prompting Rooney’s lawyers to demand a similar level of disclosure from Vardy – arguing that a “secrecy filter is now being applied to documents”.
The judge’s decision lays open the possibility of more material about the world of football PR and celebrity journalism being made public in court. Vardy has already been warned she may have to hand over any details of conversations with journalists at the Sun.
The case has its roots in Rooney’s claim back in 2019 that a series of stories in the Sun newspaper were leaked from her private Instagram account. In an attempt to catch the perpetrator Rooney says she posted a series of fake updates on her life to the Instagram account and slowly reduced the number of people who could see it until only Vardy remained.
When the stories continued to appear in the Sun, Rooney went public and stated “It’s …………… Rebekah Vardy’s account”, prompting Vardy – who strongly denies responsibility – to sue for libel.
Rooney’s legal team has said the case will include analysis of the length of time, regularity and frequency with which accounts connected to Vardy interacted with Rooney’s Instagram account.
In a previous hearing Eastman urged the two women to settle their case to avoid spending so much on lawyers. However, after failed attempts at mediation it appears the case is still set for a seven-day trial at the high court, scheduled for early next year. The judge also heard that Rebekah Vardy would not be available to take part in a trial after 22 May 2022 – the final day of the Premier League football season. The hearing was held remotely, with Rebekah Vardy among those watching proceedings on the video call.