Lawyers have been giving their closing arguments in the so-called Wagatha Christie libel trial, where footballers’ wives Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney are battling over a 2019 Instagram post.
Vardy launched libel action after Rooney accused her of leaking stories from her private Instagram account to The Sun newspaper.
But while the two women have been in the spotlight at the London court, one key player in the drama has been conspicuously absent: Vardy’s agent and friend Caroline Watt.
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Rooney’s lawyer David Sherborne today argued that holding the trial without Watt was “like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark”. Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, is of course “the main character in Shakespeare's famous tragedy”, said the BBC.
Who is Caroline Watt?
According to the Daily Mail, Watt began to manage Vardy in 2015. A former Virgin Atlantic stewardess, Watt oversaw Vardy’s media interviews and brokered the deal for her appearance on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! in 2018.
Her husband, Steve Watt, “played for Chelsea and Swansea City before becoming manager of Hythe Town in Kent” until November last year, added the newspaper. And, “before the pandemic, she was a regular visitor to the Vardys' Lincolnshire home.
Watt was employed by talent agency The Front Row Partnership, but “left in 2019 to fly solo and kept Ms Vardy as a client”, said The Independent.
Why is she relevant to the case?
In February, Rooney attempted to have Watt added to the legal action for allegedly breaching data protection laws and leaking private information to the media.
According to lawyers, after Rooney publicly complained that someone was betraying her to the press, Watt sent a message to Vardy that said: “It wasn’t someone she trusted. It was me.”
Asked why she didn’t challenge her agent about the message, Vardy replied “that she was bathing her children and watching Dancing On Ice”, reported the i news site.
Sherborne also pointed to the “extraordinary explanations” offered by Vardy’s team about key evidence that went missing. The court heard that Vardy claimed she lost her messages while attempting to transfer them to her solicitor. Her husband – Leicester City and former England striker Jamie Vardy – said that his messages were lost when his phone was hacked.
And “Watt said her phone accidentally dropped into the North Sea when her boat was hit by a wave during a Scottish holiday”, reported The Times. Today, Sherborne described it as a “fishy” tale. “RIP Mrs Watt’s phone,” he told the court.
So where is Caroline Watt?
Ultimately, the judge refused to add Watt to the case “on the basis that the application had been made too late and would delay the main libel trial by up to a year, which would be unfair on Vardy”, said The Guardian.
According to The Independent, Watt was not “called on to give oral evidence during the trial as she is said to be in a ‘fragile state’ and deemed ‘not fit’ to provide evidence”.
Rooney’s lawyer Sherborne suggested to the court that if Watt was responsible for leaking stories about Rooney to The Sun, “she was doing Rebekah’s dirty work like a hitman”.
He said: “It comes back to the two suspects, Caroline Watt and Mrs Vardy herself. We say they were both in it together.”
Vardy’s team admitted that Watt had access to their client’s Instagram account, but insisted: “Vardy does not actually know what happened, she doesn’t know how this information got into the press, all she knows is what she did and she knows it wasn’t her.”
She accepted pointing Watt to one of Rooney’s Instagram posts about crashing her Honda, but said she had no knowledge of the agent “monitoring” the account.
What happens next?
Sherborne has emphasised what he calls the “hand-in-glove” relationship between Watt and Vardy throughout the trial. He has argued that if Vardy approved or condoned any leaks to the press via Watt, she is “responsible for the actions of her agent”. He also accused Vardy of throwing Watt “under the bus”.
“Just because she was not the one who pulled the trigger on occasion - because she did not want it coming back on her - does not mean she was not responsible,” he said.
Mrs Justice Steyn is expected to make her ruling at a later date.
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