Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney's blockbuster 'Wagatha Christie' libel case could rest on a 300-year-old ruling about stolen jewelry
- The high profile "
Wagatha Christie" libel trial between the wives of two UK soccer stars concludes Thursday.
- On the trial's final day, defendant
Coleen Rooney's team raised a 300-year-old court ruling.
A 300-year-old legal ruling could prove key in the outcome of a high-profile High Court libel trial between the wives of two British soccer stars.
The case, dubbed "Wagatha Christie," pits
Vardy is seeking to disprove Rooney's claims that Vardy leaked stories about Rooney to UK tabloids.
Rooney made the assertion in a now-infamous social media post from 2019, in which she claimed to have conducted an elaborate sting operation using her private Instagram account to find the source of systematic leaks about her personal life.
Rooney said she planted fake stories and blocked all but one person, Vardy, from seeing them, hoping to prove that any related stories to be published were Vardy's work.
Vardy has strongly denied the allegations that she leaked stories to the press about Rooney, and in 2020 sued, accusing Rooney of defaming her.
A trial began in London last week and concluded Thursday. To win the trial, Rooney needed to prove to a judge that Vardy was behind the leaked stories, or prove that making the allegation against Vardy was in the interest of the British public.
Rooney and Vardy have aired a significant amount of dirty laundry during the seven-day-long trial, but a key argument of the defence is the claim that Vardy's agent, Caroline Watt, may have sought to destroy evidence, which the defence believes may have proved Vardy was the leaker.
Watt's phone, containing messages between her and Vardy, was dropped in the sea while she was on a boat in Scotland in August 2021. Early in the trial, Rooney's barrister David Sherborne described the phone as being in "Davy Jones' Locker," a reference to which Vardy replied: "Who's Davy Jones?"
Watt claims she dropped her phone by accident after the boat hit a wave, while Rooney's team argue that it was a deliberate move designed to "cover up incriminating evidence," per a Guardian report of proceedings.
Rooney's team admit that they cannot prove Watt deliberately threw her phone overboard, but have pointed to a legal ruling from 1722 regarding the value of lost evidence, the Guardian reports.
The ruling, Armory v Delamirie, concerned a chimney-sweep — Armory — who discovered a bejeweled ring while working and took it to a jeweler — Delamirie — to have it valued. During the valuation, the jeweler's apprentice removed the precious stones from the ring socket and gave Armory an offer for the stones, which he refused, asking instead for the ring to be returned. The apprentice did so, but without the precious stones, leading Armory to sue.
While the case largely concerned property rights, it also set a precedent for judgments on the value of missing evidence in English law. The judge ruled in Armory's favor, saying that given the stones were missing, he was owed the value of the most expensive stones that could have fit into the socket.
In the case of Rooney and Vardy, Rooney's team cites the ruling, saying that the missing evidence in this case — the messages on Watt's phone — should be considered to be of the highest possible value to the case.
"One can only imagine how badly [Vardy's] position would look were the court to have access to what she was able to successfully delete. What remains cannot be anything other than the tip of the iceberg," Sherborne said, citing messages which were not lost, in which Vardy variously called Rooney a "cunt," a "stupid cow," and a "bitch."
The case concluded Thursday, with a judgment expected at some point later in 2022.
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