Somewhere in a landfill in Wales, there is a hard drive which, even after this week, contains a trove of bitcoins with a value of more than £100m. But that, surely, is nothing compared with the sacred artefact that we now know must exist somewhere – most likely in some kind of rubbish dump in the vicinity of Alderley Edge.
I speak of the document that, before today, we did not know existed. It is a handwritten note, fresh from the pen of its author, Coleen Rooney. It contains the 13 seismic sentences, each one note-perfect, beat-perfect, and magisterial in its economy, that lead to the four words and nine dot-dot-dots that shook the world: “It’s ……… Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
On her second day of cross-examination, Rooney revealed that she had first written the post out by hand, as she likes to do, before typing it out on WhatsApp and sending it to her brother to post on her Instagram while she did the same on Twitter.
The note, she said, has now been lost. And even the possibility of some kind of Wagatha Christie NFT now seems unlikely, as the WhatsApp message has been “cleared out” by her brother, and she can no longer access it either, after she changed her phone. (Rooney’s brother regularly “clears out” his WhatsApp, apparently – a course of action that, if this case demonstrates anything at all, is an eminently sensible one for anyone to take.)
It is, in theory, day five of the Wagatha Christie trial, but time took on a more plastic feel some days, or perhaps years, ago. There are only so many hours that one can spend listening to very-well-paid old men discussing how Instagram works, for the benefit of a judge whose recent cases include a Saudi arms deal and the fate of inmates at Guantanamo Bay, before one’s sense of reality starts to warp a little at the edges.
And this is arguably the defining madness of it all. The dark heart of this case, which is well into its third year and, reportedly, its third million in legal fees, is that one, thrillingly, deliciously brief message. Does the world need to hear all of its backstory? Do we need to witness the magician’s curtain being peeled back? Do we need Rooney to explain, in excruciating detail, that “you go to settings, and then you go into ‘hide my story’, then you have to select all the people you’re hiding it from”?
It is still suggested that Rooney lacks the evidence required to prove that Rebekah Vardy definitely knew that her account was being used, either by herself or someone else, to feed information about Rooney’s private life to The Sun.
Vardy’s defence – or more accurately attack, as she has brought this legal action herself – appears to rest on the notion that her agent, Caroline Watt, was doing all this without her knowledge. They appear to expect Rooney, and the wider court, to believe that there’s no way Vardy could have known that anyone with access to her account could have been doing anything untoward with it.
And they also seem to expect no one to get too bogged down in, for example, the thousands of WhatsApp messages between Watt and Vardy, in which the two collaborate to provide information to journalists at The Sun on subjects such as Riyad Mahrez not turning up to training and Danny Drinkwater getting done for drink-driving. That Vardy would never have messaged Andy Halls, the author of the stories at the heart of this case, even though she sent a message to Watt that simply said: “Messaged Halls.”
For most of day five, the court became rather more philosophical than strictly factual. Rooney said she hadn’t expected her Instagram-based investigation to make quite the impact it did. “It was way bigger than what I ever thought,” she said, adding that she has “hated every minute of it”.
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This, Vardy’s lawyers suggested, cannot possibly be true, citing as evidence the gleeful memes that were on her phone, including one in which her face had been photoshopped onto Scooby Doo as he pulled the mask off some wrongdoer or other to reveal the face of Vardy.
One has to point out, perhaps, that a person is not always in full control of what they might receive on WhatsApp, as anyone who has been on a stag do can no doubt attest, though this point was not made in mitigation. The intricate workings of Instagram were clearly more than enough for the court. WhatsApp too could have pushed it over the edge.
Quite where this goes next is anybody’s guess, though day six, on Tuesday, will feature the case’s most inscrutable face thus far. Wayne Rooney, record goalscorer for England and Manchester United, has spent a full 25 hours staring at the oak panels two yards from his face, breaking the monotony every hour or so by allowing a brief examination of his cuticles in strict left-to-right order.
Quite what he will have to say about it all, well, who knows. But we are about to find out.
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