Coleen arrived alongside her football manager husband, Wayne, followed 30 seconds later by Rebekah, who pulled up in a black cab accompanied by two security guards but without her Leicester striker husband, Jamie.
Both women entered Court 13 almost simultaneously, and sat about 10ft apart on the front bench facing Mrs Justice Steyn, barely giving each other a glance.
Introducing the case, Rebekah’s barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC said: ‘Mrs Vardy has brought this action to vindicate her reputation.’
The WAGS have been at war since October 2019 after Coleen accused Rebekah of leaking ‘false stories’ about her private life, before claiming that she uncovered the culprit after carrying out a social media ‘sting operation’.
Coleen publicly claimed her fellow footballer’s wife shared three fake stories she had posted on her personal Instagram with The Sun, a claim Rebekah vehemently denied – leading her to launch the costly libel action.
Both women are expected to give evidence in court, as well as Wayne himself.
Coleen is believed to have agreed for a Netflix documentary to be filmed around her side of the case – reflecting the intense public interest in the proceedings.
Coleen Rooney, wife of Derby County manager Wayne Rooney, arrives with her husband at the Royal Courts of Justice in London this morning
Rebekah Vardy pulled up in a black cab today accompanied by two security guards. Her husband, Jamie, was not among the entourage
Coleen was seen wearing a plastic air boot on her left leg today. She will have to keep it on for six weeks after taking a fall at home
Rebekah meanwhile, has been besieged with TV interview requests and pundits expect her to grant one to Piers Morgan after the case is concluded.
The High Court hearing will see two of Britain’s most high-profile lawyers coming face to face with David Sherborne representing Coleen and Ian Tomlinson QC arguing Rebekah’s case.
At the heart of the dispute are three ‘fake’ stories which Coleen maintains that she posted on her personal Instagram stories as she attempted to discover who was leaking information about her and her family.
These were about Coleen claiming that she was travelling to Mexico to find out about gender selection, making a return to TV and flooding taking place at her new home. All three stories later appeared in The Sun.
In a bid to smoke out the culprit, Coleen said she had altered the privacy settings to make the posts visible to just one person’s account – Rebekah’s.
In a famous post identifying the culprit, Coleen 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.’
Shortly after the accusation, Rebekah – who was pregnant and on holiday in Dubai at the time – denied any involvement.
She hit back on social media, writing: ‘As I have just said to you [Coleen] on the phone, I wish you had called me if you thought this.
‘I never speak to anyone about you, as various journalists who have asked me to over the years can vouch for. If you thought this was happening, you could have told me, and I could have changed passwords to see if it stopped.
‘Over the years various people have had access to my Insta and just this week I found out I was following people I didn’t know and have never followed myself. I’m not being funny, but I don’t need the money, what would I gain from selling stories on you?’
Emerging from a black London cab, Rebekah arriving outside the steps of the High Court this morning for the start of the Wagatha Christie trial
Rebekah walks through a crowd of photographers towards the entrance of the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand
Rebekah – the wife of Leicester City strike Jamie Vardy – is photographed as she arrived in court today
Coleen bore a purposeful expression as she walked in to court this morning alongside her former England star husband
Around the same time, she sent a text to Caroline Watt, her then publicist declaring ‘That’s war’, according to evidence put before the court in the subsequent proceedings.
In February 2020 in a tearful appearance on ITV’s Loose Women, Rebekah said the stress of the dispute caused her to have severe anxiety attacks and she ‘ended up in hospital three times’.
A few months later in June 2020, the bombshell emerged that Rebekah had launched libel proceedings against Coleen.
Her lawyers said she ‘suffered extreme distress, hurt, anxiety and embarrassment as a result of the publication of the post and the events which followed’.
In November 2020, lawyers for both parties met at the first High Court hearing in London.
In a key ‘meanings hearing’, Mr Justice Warbys ruled that Coleen’s October 2019 post ‘clearly identified’ Rebekah as being ‘guilty of the serious and consistent breach of trust’.
The judge concluded that the ‘natural and ordinary’ meaning of the posts was that Rebekah had ‘regularly and frequently abused her status as a trusted follower of Coleen’s personal Instagram account by secretly informing The Sun of Coleen’s private posts and stories’.
Rebekah Vardy with her agent, Caroline Watt, who had been due to give evidence in the trial but was recently found to be ‘not fit’ to take part, also withdrawing her written evidence
Under English defamation law, the burden of proof now will be on Coleen to prove that her post was ‘substantially true’.
The full trial follows months of preliminary hearings – none of which were attended by either woman.
In February, Coleen’s barrister David Sherborne told the High Court that a ‘series of unfortunate events’ had befallen some of the key evidence in the case, notably Ms Watt’s phone falling into the North Sea from a boat she was on.
Rebekah’s lawyers have said she has ‘nothing to hide’.
Most recently, the High Court was told by Mr Sherborne that Rebekah ‘appears to accept’ that Ms Watt was the source of leaked stories about Coleen that were published in The Sun.
Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Rebekah, told the court that his client’s new witness statement did not contain ‘any change whatever in the pleaded case’.
Ms Watt had been due to give evidence in the trial but was recently found to be ‘not fit’ to take part, also withdrawing her written evidence.
Mr Tomlinson said: ‘We simply don’t know what the true position is in relation to Ms Watt… She’s not communicating with anybody.’
The trial in front of Mrs Justice Steyn is expected to last seven days.
Wagatha Christie timeline: How Coleen and Rebekah’s long-running, vicious war unfolded before the eyes of 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 says various people had access to her Instagram over the years.
She claims to be ‘so upset’ by Coleen’s accusation, later adding: ‘I thought she was my friend but she completely annihilated me.’
The public dispute makes headlines around the world, with the hashtag #WagathaChristie trending.
How it all began: On October 9, 2019, Coleen Rooney, now 36, accused Rebekah Vardy, 40, of leaking ‘false stories’ about her to the press in an Instagram post (above)
Shortly after Coleen’s public accusation, Rebekah – who was pregnant and on holiday in Dubai at the time – denied any involvement (above)
February 13, 2020 – In a tearful appearance on ITV’s Loose Women, Rebekah says the stress of the dispute caused her to have severe anxiety attacks and she ‘ended up in hospital three times’.
Coleen says in a statement that she does not want to ‘engage in further public debate’.
June 23, 2020 – It emerges that Rebekah has launched libel proceedings against Coleen.
Rebekah’s lawyers allege she ‘suffered extreme distress, hurt, anxiety and embarrassment as a result of the publication of the post and the events which followed’.
November 19-20, 2020 – The libel battle has its first High Court hearing in London.
A judge rules that Coleen’s October 2019 post ‘clearly identified’ Rebekah as being ‘guilty of the serious and consistent breach of trust’.
Mr Justice Warby concludes that the ‘natural and ordinary’ meaning of the posts was that Rebekah had ‘regularly and frequently abused her status as a trusted follower of Coleen’s personal Instagram account by secretly informing The Sun of Coleen’s private posts and stories’.
February 8-9, 2022 – A series of explosive messages between Rebekah and her agent Caroline Watt – which Coleen’s lawyers allege were about her – are revealed at a preliminary court hearing.
The court is told Rebekah was not referring to Coleen when she called someone a ‘nasty bitch’ in one exchange with Ms Watt.
Coleen’s lawyers seek further information from the WhatsApp messages, but the court is told that Ms Watt’s phone fell into the North Sea after a boat she was on hit a wave, before further information could be extracted from it.
February 14 – Coleen is refused permission to bring a High Court claim against Ms Watt for misuse of private information to be heard alongside the libel battle.
A High Court judge, Mrs Justice Steyn, says the bid was brought too late and previous opportunities to make the claim had not been taken.
April 13 – Ms Watt is not fit to give oral evidence at the upcoming libel trial, the High Court is told as the case returns for another hearing.
The agent revokes permission for her witness statement to be used, and withdraws her waiver which would have allowed Sun journalists to say whether she was a source of the allegedly leaked stories.
April 29 – Rebekah ‘appears to accept’ that her agent was the source of allegedly leaked stories, Coleen’s barrister David Sherborne tells the High Court.
He argues that a new witness statement submitted by Rebekah suggests Ms Watt was the source but Rebekah claims she ‘did not authorise or condone her’.
Rebekah’s lawyer Hugh Tomlinson says the statement did not contain ‘any change whatever in the pleaded case’, with her legal team having no communication with Ms Watt.
From gender selection to a flooded basement: The ‘false’ stories Coleen claims to have planted on her Instagram during ‘sting’ operation
Three ‘false’ stories Coleen Rooney claims to have planted on her private Instagram account as part of a months-long ‘sting operation’ are at the heart of her libel battle with Rebekah Vardy.
Coleen accused her fellow footballer’s wife of leaking the information to the Sun newspaper in a now infamous social media post – something Rebekah denies.
Here, we look at what has been claimed about the stories:
The gender selection article
Coleen claims to have posted the first of her ‘sting operation’ posts about a so-called gender-selection treatment on April 8 2019.
The post featured a photograph of the back seat of an airplane overlaid with the text ‘Let’s go and see what this gender selection is all about’, Coleen claims.
She alleges that the invented post was marked on Instagram as ‘seen’ only by Rebekah’s account, her lawyers have told the High Court.
In August that year, the Sun published an article claiming Coleen travelled to Mexico to look into the treatment.
The story, carrying journalist Andy Halls’s byline, is headlined ‘COL’S BABY GIRL BID Coleen Rooney travelled to Mexico to look into £8k ‘gender selection’ treatment in desperate bid to have baby girl’.
The article, referring to ‘a source’ and ‘pals’, alleged Coleen is ‘so desperate for her fifth baby to be a girl’ that she wants to hear more about a process ‘in which doctors examine embryos in a lab before implanting only those of the desired gender back into the womb’.
TV decisions article
A private ‘false’ post about planning a return to TV is made on September 25 2019, Coleen claims.
She says it featured a ‘selfie’ and the text ‘Up and out!! Easing my way back into work!! TV decisions today…. maybe it’s time for Australia’.
Coleen’s lawyers claimed in her High Court defence that the post was only accessible by Rebekah’s account.
Three days later, a Sun article under Michael Hamilton’s byline was published under the headline ‘ROO-MBA Coleen Rooney in talks to join Strictly next year as she looks to revive TV career when Wayne returns to UK’.
It quoted an anonymous source and claimed to exclusively reveal Coleen was ‘locked in talks with producers’, planned to ‘front a fashion programme’ and ‘could well do’ the Strictly Come Dancing TV show.
The flooded basement article
Coleen says she shared false information about her basement being flooded on October 2 2019, the third ‘sting operation’ post.
Her lawyers have again alleged to the High Court that the post was only accessible to Rebekah’s account.
On October 8, The Sun published a story, with Simon Boyle’s byline, headlined: ‘IN ROO-INS Wayne and Coleen Rooney’s £20million ‘Morrisons mansion’ flooded during Storm Lorenzo’.
The article, quoting a ‘source close to the couple’, claimed to reveal that bad weather had ‘wreaked havoc’ at a Cheshire property, with Coleen being ‘called in to find the cellar had been flooded’.
Who’s who in the case? Former friends who had a bitter falling out, the former Virgin Atlantic air hostess, and the celebrity lawyers going head to head
The footballer’s wife bringing the claim, Rebekah’s family was thrust into the limelight after her husband Jamie helped Leicester City on their way to an unlikely Premier League win in 2016.
The model and TV personality, 40, appeared on I’m A Celebrity in 2017 before later appearing on Dancing On Ice in 2021, as well as making appearances on Loose Women.
The mother-of-five recently wrote a children’s book with her husband Jamie, entitled Cedric The Little Sloth With A Big Dream, which follows a little sloth who hopes to become a footballer.
Coleen, the footballer’s wife defending the claim, is perhaps now better known as ‘Wagatha Christie’ after her social media posts at the heart of the libel trial went viral.
The 36-year-old has had a varied career including TV presenting, writing, as well as fronting an exercise DVD.
Happier times: Rebekah and Coleen celebrating England’s win against Wales at Stade Bollaert-Delelis in France in 2016
Coleen met her husband when she was 12, as the couple went to the same school in Liverpool.
They began dating when they both turned 16 and have four sons together – Kai Wayne, Klay Anthony, Kit Joseph and Cass Mac.
Mrs Vardy’s friend and agent, Ms Watt has featured in some of the preliminary hearings, despite not being a party to the claim or giving evidence at the trial.
She is a former Virgin Atlantic air hostess who has been Rebekah’s agent for the past seven years, helping to build her profile in the national media.
Reports that she no longer represents her following the current controversy engulfing the two have been dismissed as inaccurate with Ms Watt remaining close to Ms Vardy both professionally and personally.
Ms Watt, 39, is married to former footballer Steve Watt, who played briefly for Chelsea, making one Premier League appearance for two minutes in 2005 and Swansea City. He is currently manager of Kent non-league side Hythe Town and they have two children.
After leaving the airline industry, Ms Watt began working as an agent in the world of entertainment, quickly developing a reputation for her communication skills and ability to network.
She was formerly employed by talent agency The Frontrow Partnership but left in 2019 to go it alone and took her main client and close friend, Ms Vardy with her.
Ms Watt has been credited with building Ms Vardy’s public profile by ensuring that she regularly featured in the national media and also brokered the deal for her to appear on the hit reality TV show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! in 2018.
Ms Watt started representing the high-profile WAG in 2015, when her husband, Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy shot to fame.
She is a regular visitor to the Vardy’s Lincolnshire home and also socialises with Ms Vardy, attending glitzy parties and bars.
Her other clients include the former Page 3 girl Nicola McLean but it is Ms Vardy that has been the biggest asset in her career as an agent.
Hugh Tomlinson QC (left), who is representing Ms Vardy, is a top-flight privacy silk who has launched a number of battles with the Press in a wide-spanning career. David Sherborne (right), 53, is acting for Mrs Rooney
Hugh Tomlinson QC
An experienced media barrister, Mr Tomlinson is at the front of Mrs Vardy’s legal team in the libel case.
Called to the bar in 1983, his previous clients include the Prince of Wales in his legal battle against the Mail on Sunday over his diaries, easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and oligarch Roman Abramovich.
Mr Tomlinson, who became a QC in 2002, is a board member of campaign group Hacked Off.
Mr Sherborne also has a reputation as the barrister the rich and famous turn to for legal assistance – his previous client list includes Diana, Princess of Wales, Hollywood actor Michael Douglas and former prime minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie.
Mrs Rooney’s barrister is no stranger to high-profile libel trials at the Royal Courts of Justice, notably representing Johnny Depp in the actor’s 2020 libel claim against the publisher of the Sun, News Group Newspapers (NGN).
The barrister, called to the bar in 1992, has also represented dozens of claimants, including celebrities, suing NGN over phone hacking at the News Of The World.
Mrs Justice Steyn
The High Court judge overseeing the case, Mrs Justice Steyn (pictured right) was appointed in 2019 and sits in the Queen’s Bench Division – the part of the High Court which deals with defamation, personal injury and breach of contract claims.
As well as overseeing the ‘Wagatha Christie’ claim, other prominent cases she has heard include Arron Banks’ libel claim against journalist Carole Cadwalladr and the FDA union’s unsuccessful legal challenge over Boris Johnson’s decision to support Priti Patel following bullying accusations.
The daughter of former Law Lord Lord Steyn, Mrs Justice Steyn covered a variety of cases as a barrister, including a case over the expansion of Heathrow airport.