Businessman who organised Emiliano Sala flight convicted

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A big screen shows a tribute to Emiliano Sala (Mark Kerton/PA) (PA Archive)
A big screen shows a tribute to Emiliano Sala (Mark Kerton/PA) (PA Archive)

The businessman who organised the flight that killed Argentinian striker Emiliano Sala has been found guilty of endangering the safety of the aircraft.

David Henderson, 67, was convicted by a majority verdict of 10 to two over the death of the 28-year-old by a jury at Cardiff Crown Court on Thursday.

The plane carrying Sala from Nantes in France to his new club Cardiff crashed into the English Channel on the evening of January 21 2019, killing him and pilot David Ibbotson 59.

David Henderson was found guilty of endangering the safety of the aircraft (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)
David Henderson was found guilty of endangering the safety of the aircraft (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)

It took the jury of seven men and five women seven and a half hours to convict Henderson, the aircraft operator, who the trial heard had arranged the flight with football agent William ‘Willie’ McKay.

He had asked Ibbotson to fly the plane as he was away on holiday with his wife in Paris. Ibbotson, who regularly flew for him, did not hold a commercial pilot’s licence, a qualification to fly at night, and his rating to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu had expired.

The jury heard how just moments after finding out the plane had gone down, Henderson texted a number of people telling them to stay silent, warning it would “open a can of worms”.

The Piper Malibu aircraft, N264DB, on the ground at Nantes Airport, France, prior to the flight (AAIB/PA) (PA Media)
The Piper Malibu aircraft, N264DB, on the ground at Nantes Airport, France, prior to the flight (AAIB/PA) (PA Media)

The father-of-three and former RAF officer admitted in court he had feared an investigation into his business dealings.

Henderson, of Hotham in the East Riding of Yorkshire, had already admitted a separate offence of attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorisation.

Judge Mr Justice Foxton granted Henderson bail to return to be sentenced for both offences on November 12.

He faces maximum sentences of five years imprisonment for endangering the aircraft and two years for the lesser charge.

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