Pair jailed due to ‘morbid curiosity’ about Emiliano Sala’s body

A CCTV company director and her employee who illegally accessed mortuary security camera images of footballer Emiliano Sala's body out of "morbid curiosity" have both been jailed.

Sherry Bray, 49, and Christopher Ashford, 62, accessed the cameras at the mortuary where the Cardiff City striker's body lay, watched the footage of the post-mortem examination and took screenshots of the images.

Images of Mr Sala – who died after joining Cardiff City in a multi-million pound transfer – were then circulated on Twitter and Instagram and were seen by members of his distraught family.

Sherry Bray and Christopher Ashford court case
Sherry Bray and Christopher Ashford arriving at an earlier court hearing (Ben Birchall/PA)

The 28-year-old Argentinian was killed when the plane he was travelling in crashed into the English Channel, north of Guernsey, on January 21.

His body was recovered on February 6 and a post-mortem examination took place at Bournemouth Borough Mortuary the following day.

Swindon Crown Court heard Bray was director of the company which monitored security cameras at the mortuary, and Ashford worked for the firm.

She had sent him a message before he started his nightshift, telling him: "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.

Ashford let a friend photograph the screenshot he had taken, the court heard.

Emiliano Sala Reaction
Tributes at Cardiff City Stadium for Emiliano Sala (Aaron Chown/PA)

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 the body of Andrew Latcham.

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".

A victim impact statement from Romina Sala, the footballer's sister, said she saw pictures of her brother's body on Instagram.

"I cannot believe there are people so wicked and evil who could do that," she said.

"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."

Sherry Bray and Christopher Ashford court case
Sherry Bray admitted computer misuse and perverting the course of justice (Ben Birchall/PA)

Bray, of Corsham, and Ashford, of Calne, had previously admitted three counts of computer misuse.

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: "She fully accepts the distress and upset she's caused."

Thomas Horder, defending Ashford, described his actions as the "biggest mistake he has ever made".

Judge Peter Crabtree jailed Bray for 14 months and Ashford for five months and said that he sentenced them on the basis they did not circulate the mortuary image of Mr Sala.

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A picture shows flowers put in front of the entrance of the training center La Joneliere in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre on January 25, 2019, four days after the plane of Argentinian forward Emiliano Sala vanished during a flight from Nantes, (AFP Photo/LOIC VENANCE)
File photo dated 26/01/19 of a tribute to Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala shown on the big screen during the FA Cup fourth round match at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. Wreckage from the plane which disappeared with Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson on board has been found in the English Channel, search director David Mearns said.
A picture of Emiliano Sala is shown on the big screen in tribute to the missing footballer at Cardiff City Stadium during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock during a minutes silence in memory of Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff City players during a minutes silence for Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff City's Callum Paterson warms up ahead of the match whilst wearing a Emiliano Sala t-shirt during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
A view of the match day programme with an image of Emiliano Sala on the cover in remembrance during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff City fans wear dafodiles to honour missing footballer Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Fans look on at the flowers and scarves placed outside Cardiff City Stadium in tribute to Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Fans looking on at the flowers and scarves placed outside Cardiff City Stadium in tribute to Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
A view of half and half scarves placed outside Cardiff City Stadium in tribute to Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
A view of a hat with written messages in tribute to Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Watford and Tottenham Hotspur players during a minute's silence paying tribute to Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson before the Premier League match at Wembley Stadium, London.
Cardiff City fans in the stands with a banner reading 'Emiliano Forever in our hearts' during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London.
Cardiff City fans in the stands with a flag reading 'Emiliano Sala Forever a Bluebird' during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London.
General view of the matchday programme which includes missing footballer Emiliano Sala in the Cardiff City squad alongside a yellow daffodil before the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London.
Emiliano Sala's sister Romina (left) and mother Mercedes (centre) listen to Blue Water Recoveries director David Mearns talk about plans to find and recover the plane carrying the missing footballer and pilot David Ibbotson which disappeared over the English Channel, during a press conference at Guernsey airport.
Middlesbrough fans show their support for missing footballer Emiliano Sala during the FA Cup fourth round match at Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough.
FC Nantes football club supporters place flowers and a club scarf in the main square of the city of Nantes, France, on 25 January 2019. Four days after the disappearance of the plane of the former Argentinian forward of the Football Club of Nantes (FC Nantes) Emiliano Sala, the emotion of the supporters of the club and the Nantes did not fall. (Photo by Estelle Ruiz/NurPhoto/Sipa USA)
People Of Nantes Continue To Pay Tribute To Emiliano Sala in Nantes, France, on 25 January 2019. Four days after the disappearance of the plane of the former Argentinian forward of the Football Club of Nantes (FC Nantes) Emiliano Sala, the emotion of the supporters of the club and the Nantes did not fall. (Photo by Estelle Ruiz/NurPhoto/Sipa USA)
The body is being taken to Portland to be passed over to the Dorset coroner for examination.
The St John Marine Ambulance, Flying Christine III, shrouded in fog as it is moored in Guernsey harbour. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
A view of the FPV Morven survey vessel moored in Guernsey Harbour which was used to discover the wreckage of the plane that was carrying footballer Emiliano Sala. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
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"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," the judge said.

"You have both accepted that your deliberate accessing of the computer system, in your case, Ms Bray, to watch the autopsy of Emiliano Sala 'live', and in both of your cases to replay the autopsy using the playback facility was, in reality, unauthorised.

"You both well appreciated that there could have been no justification based on any 'security' grounds for doing so.

"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.

"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 added that they had shown the "greatest of disrespect" to Mr Sala's family and caused them "considerable distress", as well as causing "significant and enduring harm" to the family of Mr Latcham.

Anthony Johns, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "It is impossible to imagine why anyone would wish to record or view these sorts of images in such a flagrant breach of confidentiality and human decency."

Detective Inspector Gemma Vinton, from Wiltshire Police, added: "We welcome today's sentence and believe it reflects the gravity of the crimes and the great distress caused to the families involved."

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