On Wednesday 9 October 2019, the internet was gifted the best viral sensation since grumpy cat, when Coleen Rooney, wife of professional England footballer Wayne Rooney, revealed that she believed someone in her life was leaking stories about her to The Sun.
In a lengthy statement shared on social media, Rooney, 34, explained that over the previous months, she had been deliberately sharing false stories on her Instagram Story on a private account to see if the stories would make their way into the papers.
Rooney said she had her suspicions about one particular person, and used her account to set a trap and snare the alleged culprit. It was, Rooney claimed… Rebekah Vardy’s account. Vardy is married to professional footballer Jamie Vardy – a former international teammate of Wayne’s.
Vardy denied the claims and has since issued libel proceedings against Rooney in court. But the story had already made its way into the history books as one of the best popular culture moments of the decade – and seemingly demonstrated that Rooney was no amateur sleuth, earning her the nickname Wagatha Christie.
As we mark the one-year anniversary of the big reveal, here we take a look back at what led up to the incident and all that has happened since.
The first sniff of suspicion
Before Rooney made her headline-grabbing statement, she had published a couple of tweets hinting that she suspected someone in her inner circle of leaking stories about her to the press. Although she did not name anyone.
In a tweet on 27 January 2019, Rooney thanked people for messages asking if she was ok, after an article about a car crash reportedly implied that she was involved in the collision.
“The car crash story was completely wrong.... I wasn’t involved in a crash,” the 34-year-old said. “The car was damaged by another car. Someone on my private Instagram [has] seen the picture and is telling or selling stories to a certain newspaper.”
In a second tweet, which was published just minutes later and accumulated 8,800 likes (a far cry from the 297,100 likes her famed tweet would later attract), Rooney alleged that someone in her life had been selling stories about her to the media for quite some time.
“It’s happened several times now over the past couple of years,” she said. “It’s sad to think someone, who I have accepted to follow me is betraying [me] for either money or to keep a relationship with the press.”
And so it begins.
The dawning of Wagatha Christie
Nine months later, Rooney published the tweet that would send the internet into a frenzy. On 9 October 2019, she tweeted: “This has been a burden in my life for a few years now and finally I have got to the bottom of it......,” with a lengthy statement attached.
Rooney explained that she devised a plan, based on a process of elimination, where she reportedly blocked everyone on her private Instagram account, except one person she suspected was guilty of leaking stories about her to The Sun newspaper.
“The story about gender selection in Mexico, the story about returning to TV and then the latest story about the basement flooding in my new house,” she said.
Rooney wrote that it had been “tough” not commenting on the false stories but claimed to have discovered who had been leaking stories about her to the process. “It’s………. Rebekah Vardy’s account,” she concluded, a line that has since become the subject of countless memes.
Exactly half an hour later, Vardy responded, totally refuting that she had done so. “As I have just said to you 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,” she said.
Vardy explained that several people have had access to her Instagram account, adding that just that week, she had found out that she was following people on social media that she “didn’t know” and would have “never followed” herself.
“I’m not being funny but I don’t need the money, what would I gain from selling stories on you? I liked you a lot Coleen and I’m so upset you have chosen to do this, especially when I’m heavily pregnant,” said Vardy, who was seven months pregnant with her fifth child at the time.
At the time, a spokesperson for Vardy told The Independent that she was consulting with her legal team over the accusation.
A day after Rooney’s accusation broke the internet, Nicola McLean, a reality star and friend of Vardy’s, spoke about the incident on the Jeremy Vine on 5 show, saying that Vardy was “taking legal action” over the matter.
“What she’s shocked about....is how public Coleen has done it. Coleen has been very clever to say ‘it’s Rebekah Vardy’s....account.’ So that’s not saying it’s Rebekah, it’s saying someone else with access. And if she thought that, shouldn’t she have called Rebekah?”
A statement released by Rooney’s spokesperson at the time read: “It is irrefutable that the leaks came from one account, and one account only.”
Meanwhile, in each of its articles reporting on the row between Rooney and Vardy, The Sun added a disclaimer that stated: “Each of the stories provided to The Sun was put to Coleen’s representatives before publication, and on each occasion they declined to comment.”
The severity of the situation
Just two days after Rooney made her accusation against Vardy public, it was reported that police officers from Lincolnshire police had visited Vardy’s house after “death threats” were made towards her.
On the evening of the release of Rooney’s statement, Vardy had shared screenshots of several of the abusive messages she received on her Instagram Story.
A spokesperson for the police force said they had paid “passing attention” to the household “due to a concern about a number of media outlets in the area”.
A mental toll
Two weeks after the initial tweets, Vardy seemingly poked fun at the situation, posting a tweet in celebration of her husband’s hat-trick in a match between Leicester City and Southampton that read: “It’s...... Jamie Vardy #9”, referencing her partner’s shirt number.
However, in February 2020, Vardy revealed the mental toll the incident had on her. During an appearance on ITV’s Loose Women, Vardy said trolling as a result had caused “severe anxiety attacks”. “I ended up in hospital three times, and I ended up with kidney stones,” she said. "I felt like I couldn't go out, I had people just looking at me just questioning, 'did she do it?”
That same day, publicist Rachel Louise Monk released a statement online on behalf of Rooney, which read: “Coleen has nothing to add to what she has already said. She remains confident in the legal process and sees no reason to take the numerous opportunities that have been offered to engage in further public debate of this matter."
Taken to court
In June this year, it was reported that Vardy was suing Rooney for tarnishing her reputation by reportedly publishing false statements about her. Court listings showed that on 12 June, Vardy had issued a claim for “defamation – libel and slander” at the High Court.
Paul Lunt, of law firm Brabners and a representative of Rooney’s legal team, said in a statement that it was “disappointing that Mrs Vardy has chosen to issue court proceedings”.
“Coleen feels that the time and money involved could be put to better use; her offer to meet face to face still stands,” he said. “Mrs Vardy’s decision to issue court proceedings does at least mean that Coleen’s evidence can be made public when the time is right,” he added.
The case continues
A month after Vardy officially filed a claim of libel against Rooney, documents filed to the High Court in advance of the case detailed the mental impact the allegation supposedly had on her, including “extreme distress, hurt, anxiety and embarrassment as a result of the publication of the post and the events which followed”.
On 21 September, The Mirror reported that Vardy and Rooney are set to go to court within weeks.
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