In the October 2019 post, Ms Rooney, 36, said she had carried out a months-long “sting operation” and accused Ms Vardy, 40, of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the press.
The wife of former England star Wayne Rooney publicly claimed Ms Vardy’s account was the source behind three stories in The Sun newspaper featuring fake details she had posted on her private Instagram stories.
Ms Vardy, who is married to Leicester striker Jamie Vardy, denied leaking stories to the media and sued her fellow footballer’s wife for libel, while Mrs Rooney defended the claim on the basis her post was “substantially true”.
Both women attended a week-long trial at the High Court in London in May, which attracted a huge amount of press attention.
Below are the six key lines from Mrs Justice Steyn’s judgement:
Vardy ‘actively engaged’ in passing information from Rooney’s Instagram to The Sun
In her ruling, Mrs Justice Steyn said it was “likely” that Mrs Vardy’s agent at the time, Caroline Watt, “undertook the direct act” of passing the information to The Sun.
“I have found that Ms Vardy was party to the disclosure to the sun of the marriage, birthday, halloween, pyjamas, car crash, gender selection, babysitting and flooded basement posts,” the judge said.
She added: “Nonetheless, the evidence … clearly shows, in my view, that Mrs Vardy knew of and condoned this behaviour, actively engaging in it by directing Ms Watt to the private Instagram account, sending her screenshots of Mrs Rooney’s posts, drawing attention to items of potential interest to the press, and answering additional queries raised by the press via Ms Watt.”
Vardy’s evidence in trial was ‘manifestly inconsistent,’ judge says
Ms Steyn has found that Rebekah Vardy’s evidence in the trial was “manifestly inconsistent” with other evidence on “many occasions”.
In her judgment, she said: “It was evident that Mrs Vardy found the process of giving evidence stressful and, at times, distressing. I bear in mind when assessing her evidence the degree of stress she was naturally feeling, given the high-profile nature of the trial, the abuse that she has suffered since the reveal post was published, and the length of time she was in the witness box.”
The judge added: “Nevertheless, I find that it is, unfortunately, necessary to treat Mrs Vardy’s evidence with very considerable caution.
“This inevitably affects my overall view of her credibility, although I have borne in mind that untruthful evidence may be given to mask guilt or to fortify innocence.”
Vardy chose not to call agent to give testimony as it would be shown to be ‘untrue,’ judge suggests
Ms Steyn said that Vardy chose not to call her agent Caroline Watt to give evidence partly because she knew her evidence “would be shown to be untrue”.
Ms Watt had been due to give evidence in support of Ms Vardy, however, she withdrew her evidence pre-trial, with the court told it was due to health concerns.
The judge said: “I accept that her health has been adversely affected by these proceedings. In part, no doubt, that is because she is not someone who has previously been, or ever sought to be, in the public eye, and being a key witness in a trial of this nature would have been uncomfortable even if she had nothing to hide.
“However, I am compelled to the conclusion that the primary reason Ms Watt was so very reluctant to give evidence, and has suffered adversely from the pressure to do so, was that she knew that to a large extent the evidence in her statements was untrue.
“In my view, the claimant’s decision not to seek to call Ms Watt, against her will, was motivated, to a substantial degree, by concern for her friend’s welfare.”
Watt likely dropped phone in sea ‘deliberately’
Ms Steyn has said the likelihood that the loss of Caroline Watt’s phone was accidental was “slim” and that it was “likely” she deliberately dropped her phone into the sea.
Ms Watt said her phone fell into the North Sea while she was filming the Scottish coastline in August 2021. In her judgment, the Ms Steyn said that on 4 August 2021, an order was made for Ms Watt’s phone to be inspected.
She said: “The timing is striking…the likelihood that the loss Ms Watt describes was accidental is slim.”
The judge continued: “It is likely that the WhatsApp chat between herself and Mrs Vardy, as well as exchanges with journalists, was available on Ms Watt’s phone when she was advised very shortly after the reveal post that such evidence must be preserved.”
Ms Steyn added: “In my judgment, it is likely that Ms Vardy deliberately deleted her WhatsApp chat with Ms Watt, and that Ms Watt deliberately dropped her phone in the sea.”
Degree of ‘self-deception’ in Vardy’s role in leaks
Ms Steyn said there was “a degree of self-deception” on Vardy’s part about her role in disclosing information.
She said: “Although significant parts of Mrs Vardy’s evidence were not credible, my assessment is that she is genuinely offended by the accusation made against her by Mrs (Coleen) Rooney in the reveal post.
“Mrs Vardy’s part in disclosing information to The Sun was, it seems to me, unthinking rather than part of a considered and concerted business practice.
“Consequently, there has been a degree of self-deception on her part regarding the extent to which she was involved, as well as a degree of justified resentment at the exaggerated way in which her role has at times been presented during the litigation.”
Likely Vardy leaked more information from Rooney’s account
Ms Steyn said in her judgement that it isit is likely that additional information from the private Instagram account was passed to the press by Watt and Vardy, adding that it was evident that information that was passed to the press would not necassarily be published.
“Having regard to the evidence that is available and my conclusions regarding the evidence which is missing, it is appropriate to draw inference that Ms Vardy and Ms Watt together leaked more information from the private instagram account over the course of 2017-2019 that that which is contained in the eight posts to which I have referred,” she said.