Rebekah Vardy’s libel battle against Coleen Rooney has started at the High Court.
The showdown comes a year after Rooney accused Vardy of leaking stories about her on Instagram.
The 34-year-old was dubbed “Wagatha Christie” on social media for her apparent sleuthing work, having “posted a series of false stories to see if they made their way into The Sun” as part of her “sting operation”.
She wrote on social media last October: “For a few years now someone who I trusted to follow me on my personal Instagram account has been consistently informing The Sun newspaper of my private posts and stories.”
She dramatically added: “I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them.
“It’s ……………. Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Vardy, wife of Leicester City striker Jamie, denied any wrongdoing and later revealed that the public spat had led to trolling and that she’d been admitted to hospital three times after suffering anxiety attacks.
The 38-year-old launched libel proceedings in June and the first High Court hearing started on Thursday.
At the hearing – which Rooney and Vardy did not attend – Mr Justice Warby is being asked to determine the “natural and ordinary” meaning of Rooney’s posts on Instagram and Twitter.
Vardy’s barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC said Rooney’s posts were an “untrue and unjustified defamatory attack” which was “published and republished to millions of people”.
He said Rooney’s accusation “leaves the reasonable reader in no doubt that the defendant is accusing the claimant of consistently and repeatedly betraying her trust over several years”.
He added: “In fact, she did nothing wrong. Whatever leaks there were did not come from her.”
Tomlinson said Rooney’s post featured “a build-up to the ‘big reveal’ of the identity of the person responsible”, adding: “The description of the defendant’s detective work makes it clear that the claimant is being said to be responsible for the leaking of the three specific stories mentioned.”
Rooney claimed Vardy leaked three “false stories” she posted on Instagram about “gender selection in Mexico”, Rooney returning to TV, and the basement in her new house flooding.
Vardy’s lawyers argue that the meaning of Rooney’s posts was that she had “consistently and repeatedly betrayed the defendant’s trust over several years by leaking the defendant’s private and personal Instagram posts and stories for publication in The Sun”.
Rooney’s legal team say the posts mean “there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the claimant was responsible for consistently passing on information about the defendant’s private Instagram posts and stories to The Sun newspaper”.
Watch: Rooney posts 'unjustified defamatory attack'
David Sherborne, who is representing Rooney, said in written submissions: “It is true that the claimant was responsible for consistently passing on information about the defendant’s private Instagram posts and stories to The Sun, and that this was part of her history and practice of providing private information to the press, especially The Sun, with whom she had a very close relationship.”
He said Rooney’s post making the allegations “followed earlier warnings which the defendant had been forced to post publicly, as well as privately, as a result of information from her private social media accounts being leaked to The Sun”.
Sherborne told the court Rooney conducted a “sting operation” and “deliberately limited the accessibility to this private account and the sting operation stories” to just Vardy.
He said: “The fact that these sting operation stories also then appeared in The Sun, after access to her private account was limited to just the @beckyvardy account, is the reason why the defendant published the post which is the subject of this claim.
“The impression the reader would take away would be the essential message, that it was Rebekah Vardy’s account that was the source of private stories about the defendant appearing in The Sun – not Rebekah Vardy herself.
“The impression the post gives the ordinary reader stops short of guilt.”
Read more: Wagatha Christie one year on
In her written claim, Vardy said she had worried she would lose her baby because of the stress as she was pregnant at the time.
The celebrity – who is set to appear on the next series of Dancing On Ice – also “suffered extreme distress, hurt, anxiety and embarrassment as a result of the publication of the post and the events which followed”, her lawyers allege.
Additional reporting by PA.
Watch Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy to face off in court