Tuesday 10 May 2022 09:29 PM Wagatha Christie: How £3m libel 'trial of the century' unfolded on dramatic ... trends now
It's been dubbed the 'libel trial of the century' and the first day of the so-called Wagatha Christie legal battle certainly did not disappoint, featuring foul-mouthed Whatsapp messages and repeated references to Peter Andre's 'chipolata' manhood.
From the very start of proceedings, the atmosphere across the front bench in the well of Court 13 at the High Court was icy, to say the least.
Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney, once friendly enough to exchange wedding presents and baby gifts, were now oceans further apart than the eight to 10 feet of well-worn green leather which separated them for most of the day.
The women have been at war since October 2019 after Coleen accused Rebekah of leaking 'false stories' about her private life, before claiming she had uncovered the culprit after carrying out a social media 'sting operation'.
Coleen publicly claimed three fake stories she had posted on her personal Instagram which ended up in The Sun had come from Rebekah's own account, a claim Rebekah vehemently denied - leading her to launch the costly libel action which finally reached trial today.
They arrived within minutes of each other, firstly Rebekah, accompanied by her solicitor Charlotte Harris, entering by the left-hand door of the court, usually kept for claimants.
Shortly afterwards, Wayne and Coleen Rooney came through the right-hand door, marked 'defendants'.
Coleen, wearing a surgical boot due to a foot injury, slid into her seat behind the table, just in front of her legal team.
Neither woman looked at the other for the duration of the hours of speeches by their lawyers: Hugh Tomlinson QC for Rebekah and David Sherborne for Coleen.
Rebekah arriving at the High Court today accompanied by two security guards. Her husband, Jamie, was not among the entourage.
Wayne and Coleen Rooney outside the High Court in London today, which saw the dramatic opening of the so-called Wagatha Christie libel case between them and Rebekah Vardy
Coleen was seen wearing a plastic boot on her left leg as she arrived to the High Court for the start of the highly-anticipated Wagatha Christie libel trial today, after she suffered a fracture following a fall at her home in March
Rebekah Vardy (left) took to the stand and swore on the Bible before being quizzed by Coleen's barrister David Sherborne (in the whig). Wayne and Coleen Rooney are seen watching on in this artist's impression. It was the first time they looked at her since she had entered the court room hours earlier.
The atmosphere across the front bench in the well of Court 13 at the High Court was icy, to say the least. Pictured: Artist impression of Rebekah Vardy (far right) and Wayne and Coleen Rooney (left) at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, May 10, 2022
At around 3.50pm, Rebekah Vardy finally took to the witness box. Whereas before, she had looked towards the judge, Coleen now turned her star up at Rebekah as she was sworn in, and rarely did her focus shift from the woman now dubbed her 'enemy' in the war of the WAGs. (Pictured: Artist impression of Rebekah Vardy giving evidence (L) with Wayne & Coleen Rooney looking on (R) at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. May 10, 2022)
Peter Andre, 49, took to Instagram after Mrs Vardy told London's High Court that she regretted comparing his private member to a 'chipolata' in a kiss-and-tell newspaper interview for the News of the World in 2004
Wayne looked less than transfixed by the legal submissions and appeared to be rubbing sleep from his eyes as he twiddled his thumbs and stared into the middle distance as the day wore on.
Wayne's apparent level of interest was matched by the virtual absence of a public gallery.
Although billed as the libel trial of the year, all but one person in the court apart from the parties was either a journalist or a lawyer, and the sole elderly gent representing the public, who had dutifully queued to see the proceedings, left at the first morning interval and did not return.
Coleen, looking smart in blue blazer and trousers, her hair tied back, maintained a steady, steely gaze ahead, and never more so when the moment came at 3.50pm for Rebekah to enter the witness box, after sidling right past Wayne and Coleen to get there.
Whereas before, she had looked towards the judge, Coleen now turned her star up at Rebekah as she was sworn in, and rarely did her focus shift from the woman now dubbed her 'enemy' in the war of the WAGs.
Occasionally there were lighter moments, particularly when the august, rather stuffy world of the Inns of Court cast its beady eye over the navel-gazing universe of the Instagram generation which is at the heart of the case.
Mr Tomlinson read out a lurid piece from the Sun, penned by the mysterious 'Secret Wag'.
'OMG,' began the doughty lawyer, before pausing and turning to Lady Justice Steyn, to explain 'that's of course Oh, My God,' my lady,' he explained.
At one point Mrs Rooney's lawyer David Sherborne asked Rebekah (whose foul-mouthed texts have been a feature of the case) to explain the abbreviation 'FFS' in one message and she glanced nervously at the judge, who indicated it was all right to swear in court when the evidence demanded it – so she said 'For F**** sake'. (Pictured: Artist impression of Rebekah Vardy giving evidence at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. May 10, 2022)
Coleen, looking smart in blue blazer and trousers, her hair tied back, maintained a steady, steely gaze ahead, and never more so when the moment came at 3.50pm for Rebekah to enter the witness box, after sidling right past Wayne and Coleen to get there. (Pictured: Court sketch of Wayne Rooney and Coleen, far left, and Rebekah Vardy far right, sitting near to each other in the front row at court prior to Vardy giving evidence)
By Bridie Pearson-Jones for MailOnline
They're usually spotted in glamourous attire on foreign holidays and in swanky nightclubs.
But Coleen and Rebekah swapped cocktail dresses and bikinis for a smart business style today as they arrived at London High Court to battle out the 'Wagatha Christie' case.
Coleen, 36, opted for a stylish black suit with a £1,565 Mugler blazer and navy T-shirt, which she paired with a £615 Gucci loafer.
Rebekah, 40, opted for full Duchess style in a trendy midi shirt dress from British-Canadian designer Edeline Lee, who marks Kate Middleton among her fans.
Turning up for the first day of proceedings, Coleen wore her brown hair down while tying part of it back and opting for a natural make-up look with a light layer of foundation and lick of mascara.
She added small golden hoops to the look which otherwise had minimal jewellery.
The mother-of-four, who was wearing a medical boot on her left leg for an injury paired the look with one velvet Gucci loafer from the Italian fashion house's SS22 collection which costs £615.
Coleen clutched two leather handbags as she walked into court and rolled up her blazer sleeves exposing a diamond bracelet.
The Lady Judge smiled tolerantly as it was clearly no surprise to her.
He continued from the article: 'HOW could she!!?? Coleen Rooney has created the biggest WAG fallout since Nicola McLean whipped off her 32FF superbra.'
Chuckles broke out in court, and even Rebekah and her lawyer joined in, but there certainly wasn't much of a smile on Coleen's face.
The first few questions in cross-examination from leading celebrity lawyer Mr Sherborne, nicknamed 'Orange Sherbert' in legal circles for his perma-tan, were relatively gentle, but clearly he was only warming up.
At one point Mr Sherborne asked Rebekah (whose foul-mouthed texts have been a feature of the case) to explain the abbreviation 'FFS' in one message and she glanced nervously at the judge, who indicated it was all right to swear in court when the evidence demanded it – so she said 'For F**** sake'.
Perhaps one indication of what lies ahead in the days ahead from Coleen's team was betrayed by the box files arrayed before Mr Sherborne.
All bore large labels in marker pen stating their contents. One simply read: 'Vardy: Lies.'
Towards the end of the day, Mr Sherborne said: 'Whilst it is true that Mrs Vardy did leak a number of people's information in her circle, Mrs Rooney was not one of them, she says.
'I do wonder whether it's not just Mrs Rooney or the whole court who now think: Why on earth are we even here?'
It comes after media lawyer Jonathan Coad said today that whoever wins, they are unlikely to see much in the way of compensation due to their respective legal costs.
'It's a determination to be right. It's human nature,' he told the BBC.
'Once someone's taken a stand and said, 'I'm right, you're wrong,' in a very public way - to a six-figure Twitter following - it's a very big climb down to say, 'I was wrong'.'
He said he expects each side to have spent upwards of £1million on legal fees, with the winner only set to recover around 70 per cent of these.
He said this would leave them with at least £300,000 still to pay, while damages, if ordered, will likely range from £15,000 to £40,000.
He added: 'It makes no sense for either of them...even the winner is going to come out with a massive loss.'
Meanwhile, branding expert Chris Hunte, who runs the Addition agency, said both women could lose out on hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of brand deals.
He added: 'Brands go into partnerships with celebrities to build consumer loyalty, ultimately increase sales and have a positive PR around associating with that person... For both these ladies, the impact is huge, especially in the short run here. They could be losing hundreds of thousands of pounds alone, just from being involved in his case.'
But the battle is clearly not about money for Vardy and Rooney, whose designer outfits certainly contrasted with the gowns and wigs of the eminent barristers representing them.
Coleen opted for a stylish black suit with a £1,565 Mugler blazer and navy T-shirt, which she paired with a £615 Gucci loafer.
Rebekah meanwhile donned a full Duchess style in a trendy midi shirt dress from British-Canadian designer Edeline Lee, who marks Kate Middleton among her fans.
While there as a veneer of glamour to proceedings, the hearing certainly had its darker moments, particularly when Rebekah detailed the traumatic effect the 'WAGatha post' had on the last two months of her pregnancy, and the vile trolling she received on social media.
She also told how she stopped going to watch her husband play due to the chants and jeers she and her family would receive from the crowds, and how the stress induced from the saga had her fearing for her unborn baby's life.
Rebekah also said she suffering from suicidal thoughts following the fallout of Coleen's post.
But for those who remember the News of the World, there were lighter moments too – with the possible exception of singer Peter Andre.
One involved a trip down memory lane to the lurid kiss and tell which a much younger Rebekah participated in, back in 2004 about Mr Andre, who was then fresh from the 'I'm a Celebrity' jungle.
Rebekah - the wife of Leicester City strike Jamie Vardy - is photographed as she arrived in court today
Rebekah walks through a crowd of photographers towards the entrance of the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand
Coleen glances to one side as she walks into the entrance of the High Court carrying two handbags and wearing a plastic boot
The well-varnished Mr Sherborne insisted on reading lengthy passages from the story while Rebekah looked less than comfortable in the witness box, having told him she respected other people's privacy.
Rebekah had repeatedly denied leaking information to newspapers in the first few minutes of her cross-examination by Mrs Rooney's barrister.
Mr Sherborne then said: 'You wouldn't want to be called a leaker, would you?'
Rebekah replied: 'I have been called a leaker and it's not nice.'
The barrister later asked if Rebekah respected people's privacy, to which she replied: 'Yes, I do.'
He then asked her questions about an interview she gave to the News Of The World about Mrs Vardy's claimed sexual encounter with singer Peter Andre.
Mr Sherborne showed what appeared to an A3 print out of the article to Rebekah in the witness box before reading the headline: 'Peter's hung like a small chipolata, shaved, slobbery, lasts five minutes'.
The barrister read excerpts from the article, in which it was claimed Mr Andre had managed 'just five minutes of sex with Rebekah' and in which she said he had 'the smallest trouser equipment I've ever seen' that was like a 'miniature chipolata'.
Mr Sherborne suggested to Rebekah that the News Of The World was the 'highest circulating newspaper at the time', read by some four million people, and asked her whether it was 'respectful' of Peter Andre's 'right not to share this information'.
She replied: 'I was forced into a situation by my ex-husband to do this. It is something that I deeply regret... It is not nice to read and I understand why this is being used and to me this is mudslinging and I was also threatened with mudslinging by Mrs Rooney's team.'
Asked the question again by Coleen Rooney's barrister David Sherborne, Mrs Vardy said: 'The circumstances around it were completely different.'
She later said she did not ask Mr Andre for his permission or tell him it was going to happen in advance.
Mr Sherborne asked: 'Did you feel particularly strongly about the size of his manhood that it should be made public?'
Mrs Vardy, 49, (pictured leaving court) said she had been 'forced' to take part in the News Of The World article by her ex-husband
Mr Andre has since spoken out, saying he glad that Rebekah finally admitted it 'wasn't true' and that she was allegedly co-erced into making the comments.
He added: 'But the way I look at it, most people saw in the jungle how an acorn turned into an oak so I think I'm ok.'
Rebekah told how she was on holiday in Dubai on October 9, 2019 when she saw Coleen's post accusing her of leaking stories from a private Instagram.
Rebekah, who was seven months pregnant at the time, said she was 'genuinely scared that I might lose my baby' due to the stress of the situation in the days and weeks following the post.
In a written statement, she said: 'I felt extremely paranoid and like everyone in the beach club was looking at me. I thought I was going to pass out and Jamie decided we needed to leave straight away.
'I do not fully remember the journey back to the hotel because I was almost hyperventilating. I knew that I had not done anything wrong.
'I had not leaked those stories and I did not even know what posts I was supposed to have leaked.'
She continued: 'I started getting really bad pains in my stomach when we got back to the hotel.
'They were contraction type pains and I panicked that the baby was in danger. I made myself calm down and tried to think clearly. The first thing I did was ring my eldest daughter's school.'
'She was 13 years old then and children that age can be really cruel to each other. I needed to make the school aware of the situation so that they could try to protect her from bullying by the other children.'
She added: 'I could not believe that Coleen had not called me before posting this accusation to the world.'
September 2017 to October 2019 - The Sun runs a number of articles about Coleen, including that she travelled to Mexico to look into baby 'gender selection' treatment, her plan to revive her TV career and the flooding of her basement.
October 9, 2019 - Coleen uses social media to accuse Rebekah of selling stories from her private Instagram account to the tabloids.
Coleen says she spent five months attempting to work out who was sharing information about her and her family based on posts she had made on her personal social media page.
After sharing a series of 'false' stories and using a process of elimination, Coleen claims they were viewed by one Instagram account, belonging to Rebekah.
Rebekah, then pregnant with her fifth child, denies the allegations and