Ashley Cole 'indecent proposal' tale prompts libel battle

  • Ex-Model denies she was source of People story about Ashley Cole marriage proposal
  • People contends she had perhaps 'forgotten the interview'
  • Football agent says story portrayed him as 'selfish, lazy, immature and arrogant'

Football agent Paolo Vernazza and his ex-model wife Sapphira are suing the People for damages of up to £300,000 over a story which they say was not only false, but defamatory and invastion of privacy.

The pair are taking legal action over a 17 July story headlined: 'Indecent Proposal Ashley pops question (again) but does Cheryl know about latest conquest in his life?"

In their High Court writ, they allege The People story claimed Sapphira, whose husband was Ashley Cole's best friend, betrayed the confidence of both Cole and her husband by revealing Cole's private intentions towards ex-wife Cheryl.

They also say the story included a vulgar comment on what she thought Cheryl should do and insulting remarks about her husband.

The story suggested she was the type of person who tried to raise her profile by commenting on other people's private lives and publicly humiliating her husband, according to the High Court claim.

The story also suggested Paolo Vernazza did hardly any work but thought he could act in selfish and lazy manner and was immature and arrogant, and thought so by his wife, they allege.

The couple also claim Sapphira did not give an interview to the People and that despite the story being false its publication was a misuse of their private information.

After the story appeared, they claim, Sapphira wrote to the paper saying the quotes attributed to her were completely fabricated and her husband complained about the description of him as a non-league footballer.

The People, they claim, failed to apologise and instead contended she had spoken with one of its journalists days before publication.

When she denied this The People insulted her by suggesting she had perhaps forgotten the interview, implying that she was lying, the claim says.

Sapphira says this suggestion caused her enormous distress and embarrassment and that she and her husband have been forced to repeatedly deny an interview had taken place.

Sapphira said she was upset that those close to her, including her husband, might doubt her truthfulness and argue that although she was in the public eye she had never tried to profit from this.

Two days after the story appeared a former employer offered her £4,000 to contribute to a story about Ashley Cole which she declined, she says.

The pair are seeking damages and aggravated damages for libel and misuse of private information as well as an injunction banning the repetition of the claims about them.

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