Emiliano Sala: Man pleads guilty to charge over plane crash that killed footballer

David Henderson is also due to stand trial on a charge of endangering the safety of an aircraft

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 8, 2019 yellow flowers are displayed in front of the portrait of Argentinian forward Emiliano Sala at the Beaujoire stadium in Nantes.  Cardiff City and former Nantes footballer Emiliano Sala died in a plane crash in the English Channel on January 21, 2019. / AFP / LOIC VENANCE

A man has pleaded guilty to a charge relating to the flight in which footballer Emiliano Sala died when it crashed while crossing the English Channel.

David Henderson, 66, pleaded guilty on Monday, on the eve of a trial at Cardiff Crown Court, to attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorisation.

Henderson, of Hotham in Yorkshire, is due to stand trial on a separate charge of endangering the safety of an aircraft.

A jury of seven men and five women was selected after they all first confirmed they were not Cardiff City Football Club supporters and not regular attendees of matches.

Sala, 28, was on board a small plane that crashed while travelling to Wales to complete his £15 million ($19m) transfer to Cardiff City.

The flight carrying Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, 59, crashed north of the island of Guernsey in January 2019.

The single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft was flying the striker to Wales from French club Nantes.

The body of the Argentina striker was recovered from the seabed the following month, but neither the body of Mr Ibbotson, from Crowle, Lincolnshire, nor the plane's wreckage, have been recovered.

Trial judge Mr Justice Foxton told the jurors they should only discuss the case among themselves when in their jury room.

“It is of the greatest importance that you do not talk to anybody about this case, except the 12 of you within the privacy of the jury room, and that includes family and friends and anyone outside your own number,” he said.

“I don't just mean face to face, I mean WhatsApp, social media, Twitter, Facebook, text messages.

“People may be curious about this case but you must not talk to them about it.”

The judge told the jury he was sending them home and they should return to court at 2pm on Tuesday.

Updated: October 18th 2021, 3:38 PM