CARDIFF: The businessman responsible for endangering the flight that led to the deaths of footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson has been handed a jail sentence.

Cardiff Crown Court heard that David Henderson, 67, put business first by employing ill-qualified Mr Ibbotson to pilot the newly-signed Cardiff City FC striker from Cardiff to Nantes and back.

But on the flight back to the Welsh capital on January 21, 2019 the Piper Malibu N264DB aircraft crashed into the English Channel off the coast of Guernsey.

The 28-year-old Argentinian’s body was recovered from the plane’ wreckage a month later but the body of Mr Ibbotson, 59, has yet to be discovered.

Qualified pilot Henderson was unable to carry out the flight as he was spending a romantic break with his wife in Paris, but he hired Mr Ibbotson to fly the plane despite the fact he was not qualified to fly commercially, was not qualified to fly at night and his flight rating for the N264DB flight had expired in November 2018.

A trial at Cardiff Crown Court in October heard there were questions about Mr Ibbotson’s ability after he committed two airspace infringements in 2018, and the plane’s owner asked Henderson not to use him again.

But the defendant enlisted the pilot’s services again to fly Sala from Cardiff to Nantes on January 19, 2019, and back to Cardiff on January 21, 2021.

Following the crash, Henderson sought to cover up his involvement in the flight and message colleagues in the immediate aftermath.

He said: “Malibu gone missing on way back from France.” At 10.05pm he said: “Don’t say a word to anyone.”

He added: “Ibbo has crashed the Malibu and killed himself and VIP pax! Bloody disaster. There will be an inquiry.” and “Bad news, Ibbo has crashed the Malibu. Need to talk to Hedley but questions may be asked about his flying.”