Wagatha Christie. What a story this is: from the sterling gumshoe work and cyber-sleuthing of the first of its two principals, to the outraged protestations of innocence from the second, it has everything you could want and more. And what a great time for it to blow up again, with so much darkness in the world and so little cash available to spend on feeding our children and heating our homes.

The cast is drawn from that world where models and millionaire footballers meet, mingle, marry, and sue each other. On either flank we have football stars and former England team-mates Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy, while up front are their respective wives, Coleen and Rebekah. Mind you, that implies they’re all on the same team. They’re not. Ms Vardy and Ms Rooney are at loggerheads over an alleged breach of trust, and each is determined to prove themselves the wronged party whatever the cost. For the husbands, it’s a question of asking themselves the obvious question: what would Tammy Wynette do? Stand by her (wo)man, of course.

Talking of cost there are very expensive barristers involved too. Attendant on them are slightly less expensive barristers’ gophers. They turn up to court holding the barristers’ dossiers which are filled to the brim with allegations, counter-allegations, credulity-stretching facts and brain-melting morsels of gossip.

No, really. My brain has already melted, slipped out of my ear and pooled on the linoleum. And that was on day one of the trial.

So far we have heard about a phone mysteriously dropped overboard in the North Sea when a boat it was on hit a wave. We have thrilled to the detailing of certain foul-mouthed text message exchanges. We have wondered at serial mishaps with lost laptops and corrupted WhatsApp backups. And we have mused on revelations which are true about long ago ‘revelations’ which it turns out were not – specifically in regard to a “shameful” tabloid story about a sexual encounter between Ms Vardy and the singer Peter Andre which employed the word ‘chipolata’. The poor man has never lived it down.

Oh, and the claimant arrives at court wearing sunglasses then takes them off so we can see how ‘on fleek’ her eyebrows are. There’s even a walk on part in this tale for Susie Dent, lexicographer, etymologist, honorary vice-president of the Chartered Institute Of Editing And Proofreading and long-time occupant of Dictionary Corner on much-loved Channel 4 series Countdown.

Actually, let’s start with her. It was Dent who included the term WAG – capitalised like that and standing for ‘wives and girlfriends’ – in a report on English usage she compiled annually for Oxford University Press between 2003 and 2007. The phrase itself probably dates to 2002 and tabloid coverage of the England football team (or, more precisely, its handbag-toting entourage) during a stay in Dubai prior to that year’s World Cup Finals in Japan and South Korea. Today, the phrase is regarded as sexist and demeaning and rightly so – except that Wagatha Christie is too good a tag to ignore so nobody is. Besides, Ms Rooney and Ms Vardy are prime, Alpha Female examples of the species.

The latest instalment in the ongoing legal spat began playing out last week at the Court of Justice in London. Tracking back a bit, the whole thing centres on Ms Rooney’s claim, made in October 2019, that someone had been leaking stories to the tabloids based on information posted on her personal Instagram account.

Taking to Twitter, Ms Rooney stated that in order to identify the culprit she had come up with a cunning plan. It certainly was a doozie: restrict access to the account to everyone except the person she suspected of being the mole, then post made-up stories (examples: that her basement had flooded or that she had flown to Mexico to investigate having gender selection treatment) and wait to see if they made it into the red tops. They did. The trap was sprung, the sting was stung. Or something. Anyway, the fact is old Hercule Poirot himself couldn’t have done it better. And who did Ms Rooney eventually finger when she had us gathered together in the morning room for the big reveal? In the best traditions of the whodunnit, 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 series of worried faces. But it did the trick. Someone sitting at home watching the tweets drop – let’s call her Phoebe Roberts, because that’s her name – fired back a two word tweet. It read “WAGatha Christie”. And so was born that killer tag. Well done, Ms Roberts. Pick a prize and take a seat alongside Susie Dent. You too are a footnote in the WAG story.

Ms Vardy’s retort (also issued via Twitter) was to deny the accusation and imply that her Instagram account may have been hacked. “I don’t need the money, what would I gain from selling stories on you?” she wrote pointedly, adding: “I wish you had called me if you thought this”. She ended her reply with a big, red ‘I love you’ heart emoji. Then she sued Ms Rooney for defamation.

The action began in June 2020 and in November that year the Court of Justice in London found in Ms Vardy’s favour in a libel preliminary hearing. But hang on: the pair still couldn’t settle and now it’s back in front of the beak so everyone can figure out who’s right and who’s less right (because don’t imagine even a court victory is going to bury this hatchet). The onus is on Ms Rooney and her legal team to show that Ms Vardy was personally responsible for leaking the stories – rather than, say, 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.

Defending Ms Rooney is A-list lawyer David Sherborne, “dashing and floppy-haired” according to society bible Tatler. He has also represented last week’s Spotlight star Johnny Depp (he lost that one, mind) 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 big name clients have included Prince Charles and Fred ‘The Shred’ Goodwin.

Curiously, Mr Tomlinson has taken issue with media coverage of the trial which he says seems to view it merely as “entertainment”. Guilty as charged, M’lud. But I’m not the only one: even back in 2019 when the whole thing kicked off, the media was billing Wagatha Christie as a great distraction from what had otherwise been a pretty terrible year. And that was before the Tories won another term, the pandemic hit and Vladimir Putin threatened to start World War Three.

Does my learned friend really expect no tittering from the cheap seats in this WAG versus WAG slugfest? I hope not. But if he does, he can go whistle.