In a viral social media post in October 2019, Mrs Rooney, 36, said she had carried out a “sting operation” and accused Mrs Vardy, 40, of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the press.
The wife of former England star Wayne Rooney publicly claimed Mrs Vardy’s account was the source behind three fake stories she had posted on her private Instagram account.
Mrs Vardy, who is married to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, denied leaking the stories and sued her fellow footballer’s wife for libel, while Mrs Rooney defended the claim on the basis her post was “substantially true”.
Rebekah Vardy with husband Jamie outside court Yui Mok
Coleen Rooney with former England captain Wayne Yui Mok
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.
But 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."
The judge added: “In my judgment, the conclusions that I have reached as to the extent to which the claimant engaged in disclosing to The Sun information to which she only had access as a permitted follower of an Instagram account which she knew, and Mrs Rooney repeatedly asserted, was private, suffice to show the single meaning is substantially true.”
She also noted that Mrs Vardy faced “vile abuse” from members of the public following Mrs Rooney’s post.
The judge added: “Some members of the public have responded to the reveal post by subjecting Mrs Vardy to vile abuse, including messages wishing her, her family, and even her then-unborn baby, ill in the most awful terms.
“Nothing of which Mrs Vardy has been accused, nor any of the findings in this judgment, provide any justification or excuse for subjecting her or her family, or any other person involved in this case, to such vitriol.”
During the trial, the two women each gave evidence, as did Mr Rooney, also 36, who played for Everton and Manchester United as well as England.
Referring to Mrs Rooney’s viral “reveal” post at the end of the trial, her barrister David Sherborne told the court: “It is what she believed at the time… and it is what she believes even more so now that we have got to the end of the case.”
Mr Sherborne argued that Mrs Vardy had a “habitual and established practice” of leaking information about those she knew – through Ms Watt – to The Sun newspaper.
He said there were, in text message exchanges between Mrs Vardy and Ms Watt, examples of the pair discussing leaking other people’s private information.
The libel battle came after Mrs Rooney publicly claimed that an account behind three fake stories in The Sun that she had posted on her personal Instagram account was Mrs Vardy’s.
The fake stories Mrs Rooney planted on her Instagram during the sting operation featured her travelling to Mexico for a “gender selection” procedure, her planning to return to TV, and the basement flooding at her home.
In the post on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, she wrote: “I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them. “It’s ………. Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
It is believed the total legal costs of the case will be in the region of £3million, most of which will now be borne by Mrs Vardy.
Waye Rooney gave evidence in court Elizabeth Cook
Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy were England teammates together Mike Egerton