28th October, 2021
David Henderson, the businessman who organised the flight which killed footballer Emiliano Sala, has been found guilty of endangering the safety of the aircraft.
The 67-year-old was convicted by a majority verdict of 10 to two over the death of the player by a jury at Cardiff Crown Court on Thursday.
The plane carrying 28-year-old Sala crashed into the English Channel on the evening of Jan. 21, 2019, killing the striker and 59-year-old pilot David Ibbotson.
It took the jury of seven men and five women seven and a half hours to convict Henderson, the aircraft operator.
The trial had heard he 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 license, 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 that 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.
He had also put his business above the safety of passengers by using an authorized plane and hired pilots neither qualified nor competent to complete the flights.
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.
The judge, Justice Foxton, granted Henderson bail to return to be sentenced for both offenses on Nov. 12.
He faces maximum sentence of five years imprisonment for endangering the aircraft and two years for the lesser charge. (dpa/NAN)