REBEKAH Vardy today won the explosive first stage of the Wagatha Christie battle – with rival Coleen Rooney told to cough up £23,000 costs.
A High Court judge sided with the Dancing on Ice star over Coleen’s infamous post accusing her of leaking stories to the Press.
Coleen, 34, claimed it outlined “reasonable grounds” she had to suspect Becky or those with access to her Instagram account of breaching her trust.
But Mr Justice Warby agreed that the post – seen by millions online – directly pointed the finger at mum-of-five Becky, 38, as the source.
Coleen must now prove Becky alone was the culprit if she is to successfully defend the megabucks lawsuit against her.
And in another dramatic defeat, she will have to pay Becky’s costs for this preliminary hearing to the tune of £22,913.50
Giving his ruling the judge said: “This was, on its face, a considered post, using wording composed with some care.
“It would be clear to the ordinary reader from the outset that it was meant seriously, and intended to convey a message of some importance. It tells a story.
“The story is one of careful investigation, and builds to a revelation.
“The reader would pay more attention to this story than they might to a more obviously casual tweet or post.
“The reader is told straight away that the message is about bad behaviour by “someone who I trusted”.
“The post then takes the form of a “whodunnit” .
Coleen’s lawyers today said the judge’s ruling “changes nothing”.
They added: “After three years of stress and anxiety about the leaks from her private social media account, Coleen is keen to see progress made on the real issues, beginning with what Rebekah has to tell the court.”
The ruling by Mr Justice Warby, who is also presiding over Meghan Markle’s privacy claim, is now likely to shape last-ditch peace talks.
The warring Wags have agreed to hold an eleventh-hour summit before Christmas in a bid to bring their long-running feud to an end.
They will attempt to thrash out a deal that satisfies both parties to avert a costly – and hugely public – five-day libel trial next year.
Dancing on Ice star Becky, who is training for the ITV show, is understood to have thawed and made the offer of mediation earlier this month.
But if they fail to reach a deal by February 8 they will be forced into a bitter five-day libel trial at London’s High Court.
Becky’s barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC told the court: “The parties have agreed that there should be one final attempt to resolve this.”
Flamboyant David Sherborne, for Coleen, said the mum-of-four had repeatedly tried to stop the case against her from reaching court.
He said: “She believes this matter should never have gone to court.
“She has been drawn into this litigation despite the fact she has offered on a number of occasions to mediate with the claimant, Mrs Vardy.
“But she has no choice.”
Today’s crucial ruling comes after a half-day preliminary hearing yesterday on the meaning of Coleen’s post in October 2019.
Mr Tomlinson, for Becky, said it was “an untrue, unjustified and defamatory attack” which clearly “pointed the finger” at Becky.
She was cast as the “villain” at a time when she was seven months pregnant.
He told the court: “We say the ordinary reasonable reader of social media is bound to come to the inevitable conclusion that Rebekah Vardy is responsible.
“She was the one who did the leaking.
“It is not the account doing the leaking. It’s a person.
“The finger is being pointed at Rebekah Vardy as the villain, the person, the someone, the one person.
“This is a very serious claim to millions of people as a result of publication and Mrs Vardy suffered very serious and widespread hostility and abuse.
“She was seven months pregnant at the time of the post which increased the stress and distress that she suffered.
“It is deeply upsetting in circumstances where she did nothing wrong.
“It was an untrue, unjustified and defamatory attack.”
In court documents Becky said she suffered vile “abuse and hostility” in the wake of the row – leaving her feeling suicidal.
Sick trolls even joked about her being the prime suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance.
David Sherborne, for Coleen, said she would defend the words as true.
He added: “Mrs Rooney has made her position very clear. She says Mrs Vardy was responsible, in any event, for the leak of the stories to The Sun newspaper.
“She is defending the words (in the post) as true.”
The row kicked off in October 2019 when Coleen told her millions of social media followers she had turned detective after suspecting stories were being leaked.
She revealed that she had blocked all but one account from her private Instagram feed.
She said: “After a long time of trying to figure out who it could be, for various reasons, I had a suspicion.”
Coleen claimed she then posted a string of false stories to see if they would be published, which they were.
All the stories which were subsequently printed in The Sun were put to Coleen’s representatives for comment.
She then said the fake stories she planted had only been viewed by one person on Instagram, and ended dramatically: “It’s … Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Becky denies being the leak and is seeking aggravated damages for libel and costs.
She also wants an injunction against Coleen and her team from publishing the information again.