Vardy must pay up to $1.7 million after losing UK 'WAGatha Christie' libel case

By Sam Tobin

LONDON (Reuters) - Coleen Rooney, wife of ex-England soccer captain Wayne Rooney, will receive up to 1.5 million pounds ($1.7 million) in legal fees from the spouse of one of her husband's former teammates after winning her high-profile libel case, a judge has ruled.

Rebekah Vardy, wife of Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, had sued Rooney for libel after being publicly accused of leaking stories about her to the Sun tabloid.

In July, Judge Karen Steyn ruled that Rooney, 36, had proved her allegation was "substantially true" and that Vardy, 40, knew and condoned private details being leaked to the Sun by her agent.

On Tuesday, Vardy, who said the judge had got it wrong, was ordered to pay 90% of Rooney's legal costs of about 1.67 million pounds, with 800,000 to be paid by the middle of November.

The case has drawn in the public and media with its mix of glamour, soccer, and amateur sleuthing with Rooney turning detective to track down the culprit behind the leaks.

She said she had blocked everyone from viewing her Instagram account except one person and then posted a series of false stories to see whether they leaked out, which they did.

"It's ... Rebekah Vardy's account," she posted on social media, which saw Rooney dubbed "WAGatha Christie", a reference to the "WAG" moniker given to the glamorous group of footballers' "wives and girlfriends".

During the trial, the court was shown message exchanges between Vardy and her agent, which included derogatory remarks about Rooney and talk of leaking stories.

Rooney's lawyer said Vardy deleted other media files and messages, while the agent's phone ended up at the bottom of the North Sea after she said she accidentally dropped it over the side of a boat.

"In my judgment, what takes this case out of the norm in a way which compels the conclusion that I should make an order for indemnity costs is that in my judgment following the trial I found that the claimant (and also her former agent) had deliberately deleted or destroyed evidence," Steyn said.

($1 = 0.8766 pounds)

(Additional reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Mark Heinrich)