Rooney wins damages from 'Sun' over slap claim

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The Independent Online

Wayne Rooney has accepted £100,000 in damages from The Sun and the News of the World over claims that he slapped his fiancée, Coleen McLoughlin.

The England and Manchester United striker, currently embroiled in a row over an alleged £700,000 gambling debt, had denied claims of an assault at a Cheshire club last April.

At the High Court in London yesterday, News Group Newspapers, publishers of the titles, accepted that the story was false, agreed to pay damages and publish prominent apologies. Rooney's lawyers said that` he would donate the money to charity.

Ronald Thwaites QC, for Rooney, told the court that The Sun had published a front-page article on 12 April 2005 with the headline "Crazed Rooney Thumps Coleen". The article continued inside with the headline, "You Brute". Mr Thwaites said: "It alleged that he slapped her across the face, that he lashed out, that he was sniping at Coleen, that Coleen fled the nightclub, that he was calmed down and restrained by team-mates."

On 17 April, the News of the World published another article under the headline, "Rooney: The Truth", he said. It alleged Rooney had been guilty of a "violent and nasty assault" on Miss McLoughlin by slapping her across the face, punching her in the ribs and screaming "fuck off home", he said.

Mr Thwaites continued: "The allegations were and are completely false and indefensible. The defendant got it wrong. The claimant and his fiancée, Coleen McLoughlin, were devastated by the publication of these false allegations." They had suffered "enormous embarrassment and distress" as a result, he said.

Yesterday's deal improves The Sun's chances of access to England's star man during the World Cup, which begins in June.

Rooney is one of several figures in the England camp to have fallen out with the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper group recently, prompting a series of possible legal battles.

The England manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, is claiming breach of confidence after he was at the centre of an exposé by the News of the World's notorious "fake-sheikh" reporter. The England and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole is also suing The Sun and the News of the World for linking him with gay orgies.

But, despite settling yesterday, Rooney remains involved in legal action against The Sun over alleged misdemeanours. Patricia Tierney from Merseyside is suing The Sun for claiming that she was a prostitute who had sex with Rooney at the Divas massage parlour in Liverpool. Ms Tierney, 50, says she is a receptionist at the establishment and may call Rooney to give evidence, something that would be embarrassing but difficult for him to avoid.