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Emiliano Sala: David Henderson was motivated by cash when he hired an unfit pilot for the job

The dirty haggling for cash in the hours leading up to the catastrophic flight that claimed Emiliano Sala’s life spoke volumes about the sordid background of the tragedy.

David Henderson, who faces a maximum of five years in prison for hiring a highly unskilled pilot, revealed in his text messages how much money motivated him.

‘Can you ping me above £ 4k as a float?’ You are making a fortune. “There will be an extra charge for flying at night.” These were just a few of the ones he sent out when the people from Sala called him, needing a plane in a hurry.

David Henderson leaves Cardiff Crown Court on Thursday after being convicted of Emiliano Sala's death

David Henderson leaves Cardiff Crown Court on Thursday after being convicted of Emiliano Sala’s death

Henderson, 67, was charm personified at Cardiff Crown Court, with his estuarine English, tanned complexion, expensive navy suit and confident demeanor on the witness stand.

The trial revealed that he has clearly done very well outside of the business of taking footballers at full speed. He was at his son’s wedding in Paris the weekend Sala died.

But under questioning last Friday, the former RAF officer’s disregard for the human cost of his money gain became apparent.

When pilot David Ibbotson, 59, crashed with Sala, 28, on board in January 2019, Henderson didn’t even take the time to call the man’s wife, Nora Ibbotson. “I had no number for her,” he told the jury.

Instead, he was texting his friends to cover up his clues about hiring an inappropriate pilot. Ibbo crashed into the Malibu and committed suicide and committed suicide VIP! Damn disaster. There will be an investigation, ‘he told one. “Be very quiet” and “Questions about your flight may be asked” were messages to the others.

Sala holds up a Cardiff City jersey after agreeing to join for £ 15 million in January 2019

Sala holds up a Cardiff City jersey after agreeing to join for £ 15 million in January 2019

Sala holds up a Cardiff City jersey after agreeing to join for £ 15 million in January 2019

Henderson didn’t seem to realize how bad this looked. Minutes after admitting his carelessness with the pilot’s widow, he walked confidently through the public areas of the field. His attempt to wriggle out of responsibility for Sala’s death involved trying to portray Ibbotson as a highly experienced pilot and the “operator” of the flight. It was far from that.

Ibbotson, who lacked a commercial pilot’s license, a rating to fly the plane, or a qualification to fly at night, should not have been near Sala.

The court case revealed that Ibbotson was a chaotic figure, constantly prevaricating on obtaining his night flight license, claiming that the cost of a vacation in Australia had left him short of cash for necessary training.

But even when it came to flying in broad daylight, it was inadequate. ‘Ibbotson’s experience was interesting! He was everywhere, ”said one of Henderson’s friends, who had taken over the controls when he was co-piloting a flight with him.

The plane’s owner, Fay Keely, who had given her address to Henderson, was alerted by the Civil Aviation Authority about how Ibbotson had exceeded a stopping position on the runway and illegally veered off a flight path. Six months before Sala’s ill-fated flight, Keely ordered Henderson to stop using Ibbotson. He flatly ignored her.

Sala, pictured, was aboard Ibbotson's chartered plane when it crashed into the English Channel while being transported from his former club Nantes to Cardiff.

Sala, pictured, was aboard Ibbotson's chartered plane when it crashed into the English Channel while being transported from his former club Nantes to Cardiff.

Sala, pictured, was aboard Ibbotson’s chartered plane when it crashed into the English Channel while being transported from his former club Nantes to Cardiff.

On the outbound flight to Nantes with Sala, there were already indications that the plane had serious mechanical failures. Ibbotson told Henderson that he had heard a ‘bang’. Hasty repairs were made after the Piper Malibu N264DB plane landed in France.

As Ibbotson was preparing to fly Sala back to Cardiff from Nantes, Henderson was eagerly searching for weather websites from Paris to see what his man had in store for what should have been a 90-minute trip to Cardiff.

Aware that Ibbotson lacked the basic skills to fly on autopilot in poor visibility conditions, he suggested that the “blag” pilot fly with his instruments if he could not see through the fog.

‘Shit time. Can you blag IFR (instrument flight rules)? ‘sent him a text message. A follow-up text message exposed their awareness that they were toying with the mess.

Keep me posted on progress. Nervous destruction. ‘

N264DB, on the ground at Nantes airport, France, before the flight that crashed into the English Channel and killed footballer Emiliano Sala.

N264DB, on the ground at Nantes airport, France, before the flight that crashed into the English Channel and killed footballer Emiliano Sala.

N264DB, on the ground at Nantes airport, France, before the flight that crashed into the English Channel and killed footballer Emiliano Sala.

This huge gamble was compounded by a request from Sala’s agent, Willie McKay, that the flight back from Nantes be delayed for an hour until 7pm.

It meant they would take off in the dark. Henderson quickly texted McKay a response, informing him that the rescheduled flight time would incur an additional cost.

“There was a discussion about what the additional charges are in Cardiff because I wanted them to come back so late,” he told the court.

Henderson tried to muddy McKay, stating that he was so obsessed with landing a driver on short notice that: “I don’t know if he would have cared” about Ibbotson’s lack of qualifications.

McKay shouldn’t have been close to Sala’s transfer, either. He was not registered as an agent with the FA or French authorities and had been disqualified when he filed for bankruptcy in 2015.

However, it was so important to the logistics of the transfer of the 20 million pound Argentine from Nantes to Cardiff that he was bombarding Henderson with calls about planes.

Sala's agent, William 'Willie' McKay (pictured from October 2019), should not have been close to the Argentine player's transfer either, given that he was not registered with the FA as an agent.

Sala's agent, William 'Willie' McKay (pictured from October 2019), should not have been close to the Argentine player's transfer either, given that he was not registered with the FA as an agent.

Sala’s agent, William ‘Willie’ McKay (pictured from October 2019), should not have been close to the Argentine player’s transfer either, given that he was not registered with the FA as an agent.

There were six calls in seven days, each of which lasted less than a minute because McKay only issued instructions. “He was very insistent,” Henderson said.

When the accident occurred, Henderson blocked police with “no comment” responses. He refused to be interviewed.

But on a devastating morning under cross-examination last Friday, his written statement was disarmed and he was unable to find answers. There were long silences as he struggled to square claims that Ibbotson was flying legally with his own text messages about “breaking” the rules.

“Isn’t it true that you didn’t want anyone to see how you were handling these flights, since you were doing them illegally?” Prosecutor Martin Goudie QC asked Henderson. “There was probably an element of that, yes,” he replied.

The investigation into Sala’s death, scheduled for next February, will reveal that Henderson’s use of Ibbotson was only part of the scandal.

When the accident occurred, Henderson blocked police with responses without comment.

When the accident occurred, Henderson blocked police with responses without comment.

When the accident occurred, Henderson blocked police with responses without comment.

A report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch already found that Sala and the pilot were suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning when the plane crashed into the English Channel, caused by an exhaust pipe failure that allowed gas to enter. to the cabin through the heating system. .

There was no carbon monoxide monitor on the plane. It would have cost £ 14 to install one.

Henderson was told in court that Sala had a right to know, that January night nearly three years ago, that his pilot was not licensed to fly in the dark.

‘Possibly yes,’ he said. ‘In hindsight, yes. But I was not in direct contact with the passenger.

Not once in a six-day trial did he mention that passenger by name.

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