Are we wrong to be moved by the Wagatha Christie case?

Rebekah Vardy arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in London May 11 as the fight over defamation with Coleen Rooney continues

Wagatha Christie. What a story this is: from the top-notch rubber shoe work and cyber-sleuthing work of the first of its two directors to the indignant protestations of innocence of the second, it has everything you could want and then some. And what a great time to explode again with so much darkness in the World and so little money available to feed our children and heat our homes.

The cast hails from that world where models and multimillionaire footballers meet, mix, marry and sue each other. We have on both flanks Soccer Stars and former England team-mates Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy, while their respective wives Coleen and Rebekah are up front. Mind you, that implies they’re all on the same team. You are not. Ms Vardy and Ms Rooney are at odds over an alleged breach of trust and each is determined to prove herself a victim at all costs. For the husbands, it’s about asking the obvious question: what would Tammy Wynette do? Of course, stand by your (wife) husband.

Speaking of costs, there are also very expensive lawyers involved. Accompanying them are the gophers from slightly cheaper lawyers. They show up court keeping the attorneys’ files stuffed to the brim with accusations, counter-accusations, gullible facts and brain-melting bits of gossip.

Not really. My brain has already melted, slipped out of my ear and pooled on the linoleum. And that was on the first day of the trial.

So far we’ve heard of a phone that mysteriously went overboard in the North Sea when a boat it was on hit a wave. We enjoyed the details of the exchange of certain non-Flemish text messages. We wondered about serial glitches with lost laptops and damaged WhatsApp backups. And we’ve pondered revelations that are true, long-gone “revelations” that it turns out weren’t — particularly in relation to a “shameful” tabloid story about a sexual encounter between Ms Vardy and singer Peter Andre, who used the word ‘chipolata’. The poor man never lived it.

Oh, and the plaintiff comes into court wearing a pair of sunglasses and then takes them off so we can see how “quick” her eyebrows are. For Susie Dent, lexicographer, etymologist, honorary vice president of the Chartered Institute Of Editing And Proofreading and longtime resident of Dictionary Corner on the popular Channel 4 series Countdown, there’s even a walk in this story.

Actually, let’s start with her. It was Dent who included the term WAG – so capitalized and meaning “wives and girlfriends” – in a report on English usage that she produced annually for Oxford University Press between 2003 and 2007. The phrase itself likely dates back to 2002, and was featured in tabloids by the England football team (more specifically, their handbag-armed entourage) during a stay in Dubai ahead of that year’s World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea. Today, the phrase is rightly viewed as sexist and demeaning — except Wagatha Christie is too good a day to ignore, so no one is. Also, Ms. Rooney and Ms. Vardy are prime female alpha examples of the species.

The final part of the ongoing litigation began last week at the Court of Justice in London. Backtracked a bit, the whole thing revolves around Ms Rooney’s October 2019 claim that someone leaked stories to the tabloids based on information posted to her personal Instagram account.

Taking to Twitter, Ms Rooney explained that she had devised a cunning plan to identify the perpetrator. It was certainly a slob: limit account access to everyone but the person they suspected of being the mole, and then post made-up stories (examples: that her basement flooded, or that she flew to Mexico, to investigate if she had undergone gender selection treatment) and see if they made it into the red tips. They did. The trap was snapped shut, the stinger pricked. Or so. In any case, the fact is that old Hercule Poirot could not have done better himself. And who did Ms. Rooney end up fingering when she had us gathered in the morning room for the big reveal? In the best traditions of crime fiction, it came at the very end of the post. “It’s …… Rebekah Vardy’s account,” she wrote.

She used ten dots instead of a drum roll or a slow pan around a row of worried faces. But it worked. Someone sitting at home watching the tweets fall — let’s call her Phoebe Roberts because that’s her name — fired back a two-word tweet. It said WAGatha Christie. And so this killer tag was born. Well done Mrs Roberts. Choose a prize and take a seat next to Susie Dent. You, too, are a footnote in the WAG story.

Ms Vardy’s response (also via Twitter) was to deny the allegation and to suggest that her Instagram account may have been hacked. “I don’t need the money, what’s in it for me to sell stories about you?” She wrote pointedly, adding, “I wish you would have called me if that’s what you thought.” She ended her reply with a big, red “I love you” heart emoji. She then sued Ms Rooney for defamation.

The lawsuit began in June 2020 and in November of that year the Court of Justice in London ruled in favor of Ms Vardy in a preliminary hearing for defamation. But wait a minute: the couple still couldn’t calm down and now it’s back in front of the beak so everyone can figure out who’s right and who’s less right (because you can’t imagine even a win in court would mean this hatchet is buried). It is up to Ms Rooney and her legal team to prove that Ms Vardy was personally responsible for leaking the stories – and not someone else with access to her Instagram account who could have seen Ms Rooney’s posts – or that the allegation was in the public interest.

Ms Rooney’s defense is A-list lawyer David Sherborne, “dashy and limp-haired” according to the society Bible Tatler. He’s also represented last week’s Spotlight star Johnny Depp (he lost that one, mind you), as well as Tony Blair, Michael Douglas, Kate Moss and Diana, Princess of Wales. Ms Vardy’s legal team is led by Hugh Tomlinson QC, whose other notable clients include Prince Charles and Fred “The Shred” Goodwin.

Curiously, Mr Tomlinson has questioned the media coverage of the trial, which he says is seen as merely “entertainment”. Guilty as charged, M’lud. But I’m not the only one: Even back in 2019, when this whole thing started, the media billed Wagatha Christie as a major distraction from what was otherwise a pretty terrible year. And that was before the Tories won another term, the pandemic hit and Vladimir Putin threatened to start World War III.

Does my scholarly friend really not expect giggles from the cheap seats in this WAG versus WAG slugfest? I hope not. But if he does, he can whistle.

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