Businessman, David Henderson is jailed for 18 months for organising doomed flight that crashed and killed footballer Emiliano Sala

Businessman, David Henderson who organised the doomed flight that crashed and killed footballer Emiliano Sala has been sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Sala, 28 and pilot David Ibbotson, 59, died when the small plane they were flying in plunged into the English Channel in January 2019 as he was on his way to sign for Cardiff.

David Henderson, 67, of Hotham in the East Riding of Yorkshire, was a pilot himself but could not fly the plane because he was on holiday in Paris with his wife.

So he hired Mr Ibbotson, even though Ibbotson did not have a commercial pilot’s licence, could not fly at night, and had an expired rating to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft.

Sala was involved in a £15 million transfer to Cardiff City from Nantes FC, and was travelling between the two cities when he died.

Justice Foxton sentenced Henderson to 18 months in prison for endangering an aircraft, with a three-month sentence, to run concurrently, for attempting to discharge a passenger.

Justice Foxton ruled at the start of the hearing that the victim impact statement of Sala’s mother, Mercedes Taffarel, would not be read out in court after concerns were raised by Henderson’s defence about its contents.

‘My decision is not meant to diminish the devastating impact of the crash on Mrs Taffarel,’ Mr Justice Foxton said.

Prosecutor Martin Goudie QC had told the judge that Henderson was not ‘pressured’ into organising the flight by Mr McKay, and did so ‘for financial advantage’.

However, he said Henderson had no previous convictions and was of previous good character.

Speaking after a jury at Cardiff Crown Court convicted David Henderson, Daniel Machover, of Hickman & Rose solicitors, said:

‘Mr Henderson’s convictions are welcome and we hope the CAA will ensure that illegal flights of this kind are stopped.

‘The actions of David Henderson are only one piece in the puzzle of how the plane David Ibbotson was illegally flying came to crash into the sea on 21 January 2019.

‘We still do not know the key information about the maintenance history of the aircraft and all the factors behind the carbon monoxide poisoning revealed in August 2019 by AAIB.

‘The answers to these questions can only be properly established at Emiliano’s inquest, which is due to start in February next year.

‘The Sala family fervently hope that everyone involved in the inquest will provide full disclosure of material without further delay, including Piper Aircraft Inc and the AAIB. This should ensure that the inquest can fulfil its function of fully and fearlessly examining the evidence so that all the facts emerge.

‘Only if that happens will Emiliano’s family finally know the truth about this tragedy enabling all the lessons to be learned, so that no family goes through a similar preventable death.’