A courtroom battle between the wives of former England football stars Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy kicked off in London on Thursday.
The battle is an escalation in a tale of betrayal and amateur detective work which has titillated the British public.
Rebekah Vardy is suing her former friend Coleen Rooney for libel.
That was after Rooney accused her in a sensational post on Twitter and Instagram of leaking stories from her private life to the Sun tabloid newspaper.
Vardy denies the leaks.
Both women belong to a glamorous group of footballers’ wives and girlfriends, known in Britain as the WAGs.
They have become celebrities in their own right, their lives regularly dissected by the tabloid press and their social media posts widely shared.
The fallout between Rooney and Vardy exploded into public view on Oct. 9, 2019.
This was when Rooney suddenly posted a long message explaining that she had become suspicious of one of her friends and had carefully planned and executed a private investigation.
Rooney said she had blocked all her friends from viewing her private Instagram account except for the one she suspected.
She had then posted a series of fake stories over a five-month period, which had found their way into the pages of the Sun.
Rooney concluded her message by saying: “I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them. It’s…Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
The story was immediately dubbed the “WAGatha Christie” case, in reference to the renowned author of detective novels.
Rooney, whose husband is a former England captain, has 1.2 million followers on Twitter and 885,000 on Instagram.
Her message was widely shared, to the extent that it has been viewed by several million people.
The story was widely covered by Britain’s national print and broadcast media.
Vardy, who was seven months pregnant at the time, went public the same day with her denial.
But that did not stop a wave of social media abuse and ridicule against her, which her lawyers say continues up until now.
The abuse has included violent threats.
Such was the reach of the story that some users responded to a Tweet by U.S. President Donald Trump in November 2019.
It had said “ISIS has a new leader. We know exactly who it is!” with the phrase: “It’s … Rebekah Vardy.”
Her husband, Jamie Vardy, was on several occasions mocked while playing for his club, Leicester City, by opposition fans chanting “your wife is a grass”.
A grass is British slang for an informer.
Rebekah Vardy’s lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson, told the High Court that while many people were treating the case as entertainment, it was deeply upsetting and embarrassing for his client.
The case continues.