Two people have been warned they face jail after admitting accessing CCTV footage of the post-mortem examination of footballer Emiliano Sala.
Sala, 28, had just signed for Cardiff City 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 Mortuary the following day.
Sherry Bray, 49, and Christopher Ashford, 62, appeared at Swindon Crown Court on Friday where they admitted accessing CCTV footage of Sala’s post-mortem examination.
Ashford, of Calne, admitted three counts of securing unauthorised access to computer material between February 9 and 11 this year.
Bray, of Corsham, admitted three counts of securing unauthorised access to computer material between April last year and February this year.
She also admitted perverting the course of public justice by instructing Ashford to “delete your pics” on February 12, and the next day deleting the post-mortem cameras from the live feed camera facility and deleting the post-mortem image of Sala from her mobile phone.
Judge Peter Crabtree warned the pair that the starting point for sentence was custody.
Judge Crabtree added: “The starting point is custody undoubtedly in this case, it’s extremely serious.”
The maximum penalty for securing unauthorised access to computer material contrary to section one of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 is two years imprisonment, according to the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) website.
Perverting the course of justice carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, a fine, or both, it added.
Two of the securing unauthorised access to computer material charges against Bray relate to her operating the CCTV equipment at Bournemouth Mortuary to access the post-mortem examination of Sala in February.
The third is in connection with her using the CCTV equipment on April 24 last year to play the post-mortem examination of Andrew Victor Latcham.
The pair were released on bail to appear at the same court on September 20.
Bray was the director of a CCTV company called Camera Security Services Limited and Ashford was her employee, the CPS said.
Wiltshire Police said the Chippenham-based company held the out-of-hours contract to monitor the cameras at the mortuary in Bournemouth.
It said an investigation was launched after a graphic image of Sala’s post-mortem examination was spotted circulating on social media, and this led to the CCTV company’s offices being searched.
The inquiry found that both Bray and Ashford had illegally accessed the CCTV of the post-mortem, and that Bray had taken photographs of the footage on her mobile phone.
Bray also sent a picture to a family member using Facebook Messenger, the CPS added.
Evidence from Bray’s phone also revealed that she had taken a picture in the same mortuary of the body of Mr Latcham, who had died in non-suspicious circumstances in Dorset, Wiltshire Police added.
Detective Inspector Gemma Vinton said: “It has been the two families who have been at the forefront of our minds throughout the investigation; they have been significantly impacted at what was already a difficult and traumatic time for them.
“The actions of Bray and Ashford caused additional unnecessary distress and heartache, and I hope the families will now be able to concentrate on grieving for their loved ones.”
Anthony Johns, of the CPS, added: “Sherry Bray and Christopher Ashford’s actions are truly appalling.
“I cannot imagine why anyone would want to look at this footage at all, let alone replay it.
“Their actions represented a flagrant and disgraceful breach of confidentiality.
“Thankfully the wealth of evidence against the defendants left them no choice but to plead guilty to these offences and spare Mr Sala’s family any more pain.”