Emiliano Sala: Organiser of fatal flight David Henderson was aware pilot David Ibbotson was not qualified, court hears

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A man on trial for organising the flight that killed Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala was aware the pilot was not qualified and that his flying was “all over the place”, a court has been told.

David Henderson, 67, denies endangering the safety of an aircraft - but has pleaded guilty to attempting to discharge a passenger in the UK without valid permission or authorisation.

On the first day of his trial at Cardiff Crown Court, the jury heard that Henderson allegedly organised the flight in January 2019. which crashed over the English Channel near Guernsey.

The 28-year-old Argentinian striker was on his way to the UK to play for Cardiff City following a £15m move from French side Nantes.

But he was killed in the crash, alongside pilot David Ibbotson, whose body was never recovered.

Martin Goudie QC, prosecuting, told the jury that Henderson "was aware that there were issues with Mr Ibbotson's flying from the start".

The court heard how Henderson received a message from another person who had flown with Mr Ibbotson, which had described his flying as "all over the place".

The jury, made up of seven men and five women, also heard that organising the flight was in Henderson's "financial interest".

Mr Goudie added: "These flights were not operated and organised out of Mr Henderson's love for Mr Sala or Cardiff City Football Club."

The prosecution described how just months before the crash, Henderson had messaged Mr Ibbotson about him getting a night rating, with the defendant describing it as an "essential investment."

It added that other communications also show he was aware Mr Ibbotson did not have a commercial pilot's licence.

The court then heard how Henderson had messaged the plane's owner, Fay Keely, following the crash.

He said at the time: "Hi Fay, I'm afraid I have bad news, David Ibbotson crashed the plane last night. He plus passenger killed.

"The passenger was a high profile footballer so I'm afraid there is going to be a big investigation. We need legal advice before we answer any questions. Please get back to me ASAP. Regards Dave."

The trial will resume tomorrow and is expected to last two weeks.

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