A version of this article first appeared in May.
LONDON — When tabloid characters publicly spit in a juicy thriller, and when the mess is based on the kind of little Instagram drama that would feel right at home in any high school hallway, and when the confrontation heads to a pushing courtroom and goads with every titillating detail, it’s a recipe for a saga that many people have found absolutely delicious.
A libel case in Britain pitting the wives of two famous soccer players hasn’t quite wiped Ukraine or government misdeeds from the pages, but the legal drama has offered welcome respite to many. who enjoy news dessert with their news dinner.
Both sides spent their days in court in May, and now, finally, the long-awaited verdict is due in London on Friday.
Let’s catch you up.
I need the basics, please.
Coleen Rooney, 36, is a television personality and is married to Wayne Rooney, a former football star.
Rebekah Vardy, 40, is also a television personality and is married to Jamie Vardy, who is also a football star.
Ms Vardy is suing Ms Rooney for libel, a case that went to trial last week in the High Court in London, which oversees most high-profile civil proceedings in Britain.
British tabloids have long treated the wives and girlfriends – often shortened to “WAG” – of football players as constant celebrity fodder, so the two women were well known before the ensuing Instagram drama.
In October 2019, Ms Rooney publicly revealed that someone was looking at her private Instagram Stories and leaking personal information to the press, and she said she had undertaken an extensive sting operation to find the leaker.
Instagram allows people to restrict certain content to specific people. So, Ms Rooney said, she posted fake stories that were only visible on one account to see if they made it to the press. Indeed, they did.
In a dramatic dun-dun-dun reveal posted to Twitter, she revealed the results of her investigation: The account belonged to Ms Vardy.
So, case closed?
No. Ms Vardy denied any involvement, saying several people had access to her Instagram account. She said the prosecution subjected her to a torrent of verbal abuse from the public, a particular stressor when she was pregnant. In 2020, she began civil proceedings for defamation.
“I wish you had called me if you thought that,” she replied to Ms Rooney.
Wait, sorry, I don’t catch the “Wagatha Christie” reference.
WAG, as mentioned earlier, stands for wives and girlfriends. Agatha Christie was an English crime fiction writer. They say Mrs. Rooney is a good detective.
I understood. So, who is right ?
I wish we knew that. And we don’t know if we’ll ever have proof of that.
Hugh Tomlinson, Ms Vardy’s lawyer, told the court last week that Ms Vardy believed the culprit might have been her agent, Caroline Watt, according to reporters covering the trial. Ms Watt accidentally dropped a phone in the sea which Ms Rooney said contained WhatsApp messages related to the case, it was revealed in court.
Can you sue for that?
Yes. Under English law, anyone who posts a harmful statement to someone else on social media can be sued for damages, according to defamation lawyers.
But libel cases in the High Court are rare, largely because they are so expensive. Ms Rooney and Ms Vardy refused to settle out of court.
When will we have an answer?
The trial began on May 10 and closing arguments were delivered a week later. The judge is expected to deliver his verdict on Friday.