Who was Emiliano Sala and what has happened since he died?

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The man responsible for organising Emiliano Sala's doomed flight has been convicted of two charges almost three years after it crashed.

David Henderson, 67, was found guilty of endangering the safety of an aircraft at Cardiff Crown Court on Thursday, having previously admitted a charge of attempting to discharge a passenger without valuable consideration.

The plane carrying 28-year-old Sala crashed into the English Channel on the evening of January 21 2019, killing the striker and pilot David Ibbotson, 59.

Henderson will be sentenced in the coming weeks before a full inquest into the Argentinian's footballer's death takes place next year.

Sala's family are pursuing legal action against 13 parties, while a court is still yet to decide if Cardiff City should pay Nantes the multimillion-pound transfer fee they agreed before Sala died.

Here Sky News looks back at Emiliano Sala's career, his death and what has happened since.

Argentina to France

Emiliano Sala was born on 31 October 1990 in Cululu, Santa Fe to parents Horacio Sala and Mercedes Taffarel.

With his sister Romina and brother Dario, the family moved to Progreso where Sala played for his first club San Martin de Progreso at 15.

Speaking to Sky News after his death, club president Daniel Ribero said he had "always been a nice kid".

He then moved to another youth team Club Proyecto Crecer, which had links to Spain.

Sala briefly played in Grenada in 2007 but moved home to Argentina in 2008 citing problems with his girlfriend.

But in 2010, aged 20, he moved back to Europe to play for Bordeaux.

After a number of disappointing performances, however, he was loaned out to US Orleans, Niort and Caen.

A better run at Caen saw him scouted and bought up by Nantes for around one million euros.

Three years at the club saw him become one of the top strikers in the French league, scoring 42 goals and rivalling the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

He was well liked in France, having modelled his style on his idol - Argentinian legend Gabriel Batistuta, always seen smiling in pictures and known for his love of his dog - Nala.

Record-breaking transfer fee

Cardiff City - then in the Premier League - first expressed interest in Sala in December 2018 after manager Neil Warnock travelled to France to watch him play for Nantes against Marseille.

After seeing him score and Nantes win 3-2, Cardiff put in an offer, but with him reportedly valued at £25m, Nantes rejected it.

After Christmas the transfer window opened and talks between Nantes and the club resumed.

Sala, then aged 28, made his final appearance for Nantes against fellow French side Nimes on 16 January 2019.

Two days later, he travelled to Cardiff for a medical and to discuss his terms, before being pictured beaming with Bluebird fans outside their stadium.

Less than 24 hours later, Cardiff confirmed they had signed Sala for a club-record fee.

Although undisclosed, it was thought to be around £15m.

Sala released a statement that evening, saying: "It gives me great pleasure and I can't wait to start training, meet my new teammates and get down to work."

The following day, he flew back to Nantes to say goodbye to his teammates, friends and to collect some of his belongings as he prepared to move to Wales.

'I'm in this plane that feels like it's falling to pieces'

At 7.15pm on 21 January 2019, a light aircraft took off for Cardiff from Nantes with Sala on board.

It was flown by David Ibbotson, 59, from Crowle in Lincolnshire, who did not carry a commercial pilot licence and was not qualified to fly at night.

His rating for the plane - a single-engine Piper Malibu - had also expired several months before.

Two flights - one to Nantes and another back to Cardiff - had been arranged between a flight operator from Yorkshire called David Henderson and football agent William 'Willie' McKay, whose son Mark was also involved in Sala's transfer to Cardiff.

During the flight, Sala recorded a WhatsApp voice message to his friends that said the plane felt like it was "falling to pieces" and they should raise the alarm "if in an hour and a half you have no news from me".

It said: "Hello, my brothers, how are you? Boy, I'm tired. I was here in Nantes taking care of things, things, things, things, things, things, and it never stops, it never stops, it never stops.

"Anyway guys, I'm up in this plane that feels like it's falling to pieces, and I'm going to Cardiff. [It's] crazy, we start tomorrow.

"Training in the afternoon, guys, in my new team... Let's see what happens. So, how's it going with you guys, all good?

"If in an hour and a half you have no news from me, I don't know if they are going to send someone to look for me because they cannot find me, but you will know... Man, I'm scared!"

The plane was recorded flying at 5,000ft when it requested descent from Jersey air traffic control.

But it lost contact while at 2,300ft and disappeared at about 8.30pm off Alderney, Guernsey.

Search for plane ends in body being found

After the plane went missing off the island, Guernsey Police immediately began searching for the plane.

On the night of the disappearance, operations were suspended at 2am due to poor weather conditions, but as day broke on 22 January, chances of survival became slimmer and slimmer.

News broke of Sala's disappearance before it was confirmed he and the pilot were the only ones on board.

Footballers, fans and pundits expressed their concern as flowers began to appear outside Cardiff City Stadium and in Nantes.

Training and games were suspended before Guernsey Police officially called off the search - which had covered 1,700 sq miles - on 24 January.

With Sala and Ibbotson assumed dead, vigils were held on both sides of the Channel, with his former teammates in Nantes wearing pictures of him on their shirts and fans holding banners of 'We love you Emi', 'For you Emiliano' and 'Forever a Bluebird'.

Nantes decided to retire his number nine shirt out of respect.

On 30 January, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) revealed that two plane seat cushions had been washed up on a beach in France.

Four days later on 3 February, an underwater search began for the plane - and within four hours the wreckage was discovered with one body inside.

On 7 February, the body was taken by ambulance from Portland, Dorset, to the local coroner, who formally identified it as Sala using fingerprints.

Mr Ibbotson's body has never been found.

Another four days later, a post-mortem examination took place and concluded that the footballer died of "head and trunk injuries".

Later that month Sala's body was flown back to his native Argentina where his heartbroken family attended his funeral.

His mother and father vowed to get justice.

Seabed images released and picture of Sala's body leaked

The AAIB continued with its probe and on 25 February 2019 published images of the plane wreckage.

Pictured on the seabed, the blue and white plane had its identification number N264DB on it and was heavily crumpled.

Days later, football 'super agent' Mr McKay was interviewed by the press and accused Cardiff City of "abandoning" Sala by leaving private parties to organise his transport.

He claimed he and his son Mark were being scapegoated over the player's death, resulting in a heavily worded denial by Cardiff City.

The following month, pictures of Sala's dead body emerged on social media.

On 29 April 2019, Christopher Ashford and Sherry Bray were arrested for illegally accessing footage of the post-mortem examination being carried out on Sala's body.

In September that year the pair, who both worked at Camera Security Services Limited in Chippenham, were jailed for three counts of computer misuse.

Their trial at Swindon Crown Court heard that Bray, the director of the firm, had text her employee Ashford saying: "Nice one on the table for you to see when you get in."

Bray then took an image of Sala's body in the morgue and sent it to her daughter, resulting in it being circulated on social media.

Following their sentencing, Sala's sister Romina described the pair as "so wicked and evil".

"I'll never erase the images from my head," she told a news conference.

Sala's father dies

Almost three months to the day after Sala died in the plane crash, news his father had died broke in Argentina.

Horacio Sala suffered a heart attack at home in Progreso, Santa Fe, and was pronounced dead before doctors could get to him on 26 April 2019.

Local mayor Julio Muller told the La Red radio station: "Horacio could not overcome Emi, we thought that after the discovery he would be able to close that circle."

Cardiff City offered its condolences, but it was Sala's hometown club San Martin de Progreso that led tributes to him.

Sala started his career at the club aged 15, but his father, a lorry driver, maintained links with them far beyond that.

He had separated from his wife and Sala's mother at the time of his death and was survived by the player's siblings Romina and Dario.

Police make manslaughter arrest as toxicology report published

On 19 June Dorset Police announced it had arrested a 64-year-old man over Sala's death.

The charge was manslaughter by an illegal act, and although the force didn't name him, he was widely identified in the media as David Henderson.

A few months later, on 14 August, the AAIB published a toxicology report they had performed on Sala's body.

It showed he had a 58% saturation of carboxyhaemoglobin, which is a mixture of carbon monoxide and haemoglobin.

According to experts, anything over 50% is considered fatal.

The report revealed that there was a harmful level of carbon monoxide inside the cockpit of the plane before it crashed, which although his body was never found, would suggest pilot Mr Ibbotson could have suffered the same fate.

This was the first time a potential gas leak had been put forward as an explanation, with investigators focusing on the plane's capacity to fly and the pilot to operate it until that point.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Ibbotson's widow Nora described the revelation as a "massive shock" that had "never even occurred to me".

Back in Argentina, the Sala family were also concerned.

Nantes and Cardiff legal dispute over unpaid transfer fee

As the police investigation into Henderson continued in the background, a row erupted between Sala's two clubs.

Nantes had still not received any of the £14.7m transfer fee agreed with Cardiff before the player's death and asked governing body FIFA to intervene.

In late September, FIFA ordered Cardiff to pay the first instalment of £5.3m with 5% interest from the end of January.

But Cardiff claimed it was not liable for any of the fee because Sala had not started playing for Welsh club before he died.

It also said its contract with him wasn't legally binding because it had been rejected by the Premier League for breaking signing-on fee rules.

Days later Cardiff announced it would be appealing FIFA's decision at the Court of Arbitration of Sport.

More details of the case emerged in November, with FIFA threatening Cardiff with a ban on signing any new players until 2021 unless Nantes was paid within 45 days.

But FIFA told Sky News the 45-day period had been paused as Cardiff had formally lodged an appeal.

The case is still yet to be heard and the money remains unpaid.

Around this time South Wales Police launched an investigation after a fake boarding pass to Sala's crashed plane was circulated on social media ahead of a Cardiff v Swansea game.

No arrests were made.

Police drop manslaughter charge but CAA prosecute instead

Before COVID shut down international sport in March, the beginning of 2020 marked the one-year anniversary of Sala's death.

Nantes wore the colours of the Argentina flag for their match against his former club Bordeaux on 26 January, triggering an outpouring of emotion from fans.

A few days later, Cardiff bosses called for French authorities to investigate what they described as "sufficient evidence of wrongdoing" around the plane crash - before they would agree to the transfer fee.

It came in response to an article in French sports newspaper L'Equipe, which suggested Nantes's owner Waldemar Kita and Sala's agent McKay should be investigated.

Cardiff said it needed answers around the "use of illegal flights in the football industry and role of intermediaries in player transfers" before "any final decision on our financial liability".

On 11 March, Dorset Police announced it was dropping its manslaughter investigation into Henderson and he would face no further action.

Later in the year it emerged the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was planning to prosecute Henderson under an Air Navigation Order.

The criminal case delayed the inquest into Sala and Mr Ibbotson's deaths, which were due to take place in Bournemouth.

Senior Dorset coroner Rachael Griffin had to apologise to Sala's family, who described the delays as "unacceptable".

Sala family sues ahead of Henderson trial

Days after the pre-inquest hearing in Bournemouth, the Sala family announced it would be pursuing legal action against 13 parties over his death.

They included Cardiff City, FC Nantes, football agents Willie and Mark McKay, the company that owned the plane, its manufacturers and those responsible for maintenance.

Their lawyer, Daniel Machover, said the High Court action was taken "in order to protect their legal rights and remedies arising from Emiliano's untimely death", but would not begin until the inquest was over.

Meanwhile, more details had come out from the AAIB investigation.

It had concluded that the plane had broken apart while being flown too fast for its design limits - possibly in a bid to avoid bad weather.

The AAIB also found Mr Ibbotson had reported various issues with the aircraft, including an oil leak, brake issues and ones with the stall warning system.

Months later, on 26 October, the criminal trial of Henderson began in Cardiff.

He originally denied two charges - one of attempting to discharge a passenger without valuable consideration and another of endangering the safety of an aircraft - but admitted the former before the trial began.

During the hearing, jurors heard that Henderson asked Mr Ibbotson to fly the plane because he was busy on holiday with his wife in Paris.

Prosecutors claimed that he was aware the pilot was not qualified to fly the plane for money or at night and that his rating had expired.

They said the defendant had received messages from others who had flown with him saying his flying was "all over the place".

But Henderson's lawyers claimed the tragedy that killed Sala was "purely a paperwork issue".

They argued that although he did not follow regulations, it did not mean the aircraft was dangerous.

But in his closing remarks, prosecutor Martin Goudie QC said the "most basic checks" were not made on the plane and accused Henderson of "incompetence", "recklessness" and running a "cowboy outfit".

He was found guilty by a majority verdict of 10 to two after seven-and-a-half hours of deliberations.

What next?

David Henderson has been bailed pending sentencing by Mr Justice Foxton on 12 November at Cardiff Crown Court.

Now he has been found guilty and the AAIB probe has concluded, the inquest can now take place.

It is due to open at Bournemouth Town Hall in spring 2022, finally paving way for the Sala family's final questions to be answered.

Following the inquest, the family says it will resume its civil action.

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