Organiser of fatal Emiliano Sala flight guilty of endangering safety of aircraft

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Businessman David Henderson, who organised the flight Emiliano Sala was on that crashed and killed him, has been found guilty at Cardiff Crown Court of endangering the safety of an aircraft.

The 67-year-old had already pleaded guilty earlier this month to a charge of attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorisation.

But Henderson, of Hotham, East Yorkshire, had pleaded not guilty to the charge of endangering the aircraft.

At his trial, he was found guilty and convicted by a majority verdict of 10 to two over the death of the player by a jury at Cardiff Crown Court on Thursday.

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.

The flight which went down in January 2019 was carrying 28-year-old Sala and pilot Dave Ibbotson, 59, and crashed north of Guernsey.

Sala was heading to the UK from France following his transfer from Nantes to Cardiff City, then of the Premier League.

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The goalscorer tragically never made the trip, though, and Henderson has now been found guilty of endangering the safety of the aircraft almost three years on.

Henderson had asked pilot Mr Ibbotson to fly the plane as he was away on holiday with his wife in Paris.

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

Prosecutor Martin Goudie QC said Henderson had been "reckless or negligent" in the way he operated the plane, putting his business above the safety of passengers by using an authorised plane and hiring pilots neither qualified nor competent to complete the flights.

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