Pilot admits organising football star Emiliano Salas death flight, court hears

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David Henderson pleaded guilty to one charge over the death of striker Sala, 28, who took a stormy night-time trip from his club in western France to join Cardiff City. Henderson, 67, admitted taking payment in order for the plane to transport Sala “without permission or authorisation” from outside Britain.

But he denies another charge of endangering the safety of an aircraft after recruiting fellow pilot David Ibbotson, 59, as a last-minute stand-in to fly from Nantes to Cardiff airport.

Henderson has also denied a charge related to Mr Ibbotson not having a commercial pilot’s licence at the time of the flight. It was alleged that his licence expired in November 2018.

The charge stated Henderson knew “bad weather was forecast and Mr Ibbotson was not competent to fly” the single-engine Piper Malibu as a result.

After four years at French club Nantes, Argentinian ace Sala was due to make a £15million move to then Premier League side Cardiff City ‑ a record deal for the club.

But his plane plunged into icy waters off the island of Alderney on January 21, 2019.

Sala’s body was recovered the following month but Ibbotson, from Crowle, Lincolnshire, has not been found.

Henderson, of Hotham, East Yorkshire, was originally feared to be on the plane because his bank details had been used to book the flight.

He allegedly recruited Ibbotson to make a return flight that weekend heading to France, with the player again on board.

A two-week trial is due to start today at Cardiff Crown Court.

Jurors were asked before being selected if they were fans of the city’s football club.

Sala’s family living in Argentina are not attending the court case.

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