Emiliano Sala: Two jailed for illegally accessing post-mortem footage of Cardiff footballer

A man and a woman have been jailed for illegally accessing footage showing the post-mortem examination of footballer Emiliano Sala.

Sherry Bray, 49, and Christopher Ashford, 62, were sentenced to 14 months and five months respectively at Swindon Crown Court.

The pair previously admitted illegally accessing the CCTV at Bournemouth Borough Mortuary, following the death of the newly-signed Cardiff footballer.

Passing sentence, Judge Crabtree said: “So far as culpability is concerned, I accept that neither of you committed the offences you have pleaded guilty to as a consequence of any financial motive, but rather were driven by morbid curiosity and, in your case, Mr Ashford, by your interest in forensic science.

“None of these offences were sophisticated, nor did they involved any degree of significant planning.

“You have both abused your positions and the access you had in a quite appalling way in watching the autopsies you have, and in taking the photographs and screenshots you did.”

Ashford, left, and Bray, right, were sentenced in Swindon on Monday
Ashford, left, and Bray, right, were sentenced in Swindon on Monday
Cardiff fans pay their respects outside Cardiff City Stadium to new record signing Emiliano Sala, after the plane he was travelling on from Nantes to Cardiff went missing over the English Channel, January 22nd 2019.  PHOTOGRAPH BY Mark Hawkins / Barcroft Images (Photo credit should read Mark Hawkins / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Emiliano Sala was on his way to Cardiff when he died. (Photo credit should read Mark Hawkins / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Supporters pay tribute and look at yellow flowers displayed in front of the portrait of Argentinian forward Emiliano Sala at the Beaujoire stadium in Nantes, on February 10, 2019. - FC Nantes football club announced on February 8, 2019 that it will freeze the #9 jersey as a tribute to Cardiff City and former Nantes footballer Emiliano Sala who died in a plane crash in the English Channel on January 21, 2019. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images)
The former Nantes forward had tributes placed outside his home ground in France (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

The judge said that both defendants used the CCTV system to replay the footage of the footballer’s post-mortem examination and took screenshots.

Bray sent a screenshot to her youngest daughter, while Ashford let a friend photograph the screenshot he had taken.

“By those actions, you both showed a level of disrespect such that if knowledge of your conduct became public, as it did, it would cause considerable harm, and risk wider promulgation of any photograph you had taken,” the judge said.

Previously, the court was told how Bray and Ashford abused their roles in an “unbelievably cruel” way.

Bray, the director of Camera Security Services Limited in Chippenham, Wiltshire, and her employee Ashford, 62, accessed footage of the procedure being conducted on Mr Sala.

Bray had sent a message to night worker Ashford before his shift, which said: “There’s a nice one on the table for you to watch when you’re next in.”

Both replayed the clip during separate shifts before Bray took a picture of it on her mobile phone and sent it to her daughter on Facebook Messenger, leading to it being widely shared on social media, Swindon Crown Court heard.

After realising that police were investigating, Bray deleted the file from her phone and asked Ashford to do the same.

Evidence from Bray’s phone also revealed that she had taken a picture of another body in the mortuary, a man called Andrew Latchem who had died in non-suspicious circumstances.

Robert Welling, prosecuting, said Bray had a “pivotal role” in setting a culture at her workplace where “both she and members of staff would watch as and when autopsies were on the mortuary CCTV footage”.

He added: “A culture had developed whereby it appears in some ways it was actively encouraged.”

Forensic pathologist Dr Basil Purdue said in a statement he was not aware the security cameras in the mortuary were able to film post-mortem examinations, and said had he known they were recording procedures, he would “not allow that to take place”, adding it was a “flagrant breach of medical confidentiality”.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - FEBRUARY 10: Galatasaray fans unfurl a banner to pay tribute to Cardiff City player Emiliano Sala following his death during Turkish Super Lig soccer match between Galatasaray and Trabzonspor at Turk Telekom Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey on February 10, 2019. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
His death moved football fans globally - with fans in Turkey unfolding a banner in tribute. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A victim impact statement from Romina Sala, the footballer’s sister, called Bray and Ashford’s actions “wicked and evil”, and said she first found out about the leak when pictures of her brother’s body began appearing on Instagram.

She said: “I cannot believe there are people so wicked and evil who could do that.

“I’ll never erase those images from my head. My brother and mother can never forget about this. It’s hard for me to live with this image.”

Mr Latcham’s son, Richard Latcham, directed his words to Bray in his statement, saying: “Is nothing sacred? Why would you do such a thing? Such a cruel and unnecessary act.”

He said the incident had cost him £5,400 in loss of earnings and counselling sessions.

Bray, of Corsham, and Ashford, of Calne, each admitted three counts of computer misuse at Swindon Crown Court in August.

Bray also admitted perverting the course of justice by instructing Ashford to “delete your pics”, deleting the post-mortem cameras from the live feed camera facility and deleting the mortuary image of Mr Sala from her phone.

Nicholas Cotter, defending Bray, said Camera Security Services Limited, which had a turnover of £1.2 million last year and employs around 20 people, became director when her father, who started the business, died.

Mr Cotter said: “She fully accepts the distress and upset she’s caused. She does not walk away from that for one second.

“It was never her intention for these photos to be put in the public sphere. She did not intend to cause harm in this case.

“She should have known better. But she looked in Pandora’s box.”

Thomas Horder, defending Ashford, said the grandfather of four has since had his employment terminated by the company, calling his actions the “biggest mistake he has ever made”.

Mr Horder added: “Not only is he deeply sorry and remorseful, but someone who is devastated and ashamed of his actions.

“He did not intend at any point to cause harm to anyone.”

With PA:Media.

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