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My family is ripped apart

The mother of Thomas Kelly, who died after an attack in Crawley, speaks out to remember her son and to try to make people think before they act.

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On Saturday 21st October 2017 at 3am, Angelika’s world fell apart.

The single mother of two was awoken by a phone call she will never forget.  It was from her son’s girlfriend.  A panicked call that made Angelika rush into the town center.

Her son, 22-year-old Thomas Kelly had been attacked and was not breathing.

“I got up straight away and rushed to the town centre.  I was a mess, completely distraught.” Angelika explains.

When she arrived at the scene Thomas had suffered a heart attack and was being resuscitated.

“It took a while before they even moved him into the ambulance and rushed up to Kings (Hospital).”

Thomas had been out with his girlfriend and cousins and had been in a car when he had become involved in an altercation with groups of people in other cars in Crawley.  What started as verbal became physical as a fight took place in Crawley High Street leaving Thomas fighting for his life.

“I kept phoning the hospital, ‘tell me if he’s died,’ but they wouldn’t tell me anything, I wanted to prepare myself if he had.”

Paramedics had requested the air ambulance but due to the adverse weather conditions it was not possible to use.  Angelika was put in a police car as paramedics continued to work on Thomas while they rushed to the hospital.

Angelika recalls the journey, “It was awful, terrifying, I just kept asking questions.  Then suddenly  they pulled in a garage because they had to resuscitate him and induce a coma as he had another heart attack.

“I wasn’t allowed out of the car.  I was going mad in the police car, I wanted to know what they were doing him.  They wouldn’t tell me anything.  After 40 minutes, which felt like a lifetime, they carried on up to Kings and took him straight in resuscitation.

I sat there with my sister Sasha for hours not knowing what was going on.”

Angelika had to wait till they took him up to intensive care before she was able to see him.

“I was told he was in a critical condition.  They didn’t say a great deal to us.  I just sat by his bed all the time. 

I even played a little video of his daughter hoping it might help him wake up. 

I stayed there every day, I wouldn’t leave him.  There was no-where to sleep, so I slept in the waiting room.”

Thomas had suffered with heart problems all his life.

At only 3 yrs old, Thomas had a heart transplant.

At only three years of age he was given a heart transplant which got rejected at first before his body finally accepted it.

Only five years ago he ended up back in hospital as his heart was being rejected again.  The hospital had to cleanse out all his blood and Angelika recalls how they were told it was 50/50 if he would pull through.

“It was definitely a worry, I was up in hospital with him all the time. We didn’t think he would pull through it.”

But Thomas did pull through and returned back to a happy life with his daughter and his work.

Just over a year ago his son was born, Reggie.  Angelika explains how he adored his children and would do anything for them, even get his daughter to help fix things.

“It makes me really really sad, it has affected me a lot because what’s happened, and knowing Reggies going to grow up not knowing who his dad is.  He’s never going to have that daddy and son bond.  He wanted to take him paintballing, fixing cars like he did with Annabel, his daughter.  Reggie hasn’t got that time to do that.  It’s heart breaking.”

Angelika explained how after starting a life in Tadworth and moving from town to town, they settled in Crawley for a better life.

Thomas attended Thomas Bennet High School before moving onto Crawley College where he studied mechanics.  From working in Evans Cycles building bikes, to working at Thrifty car rental, Thomas was always busy with work but always made the time for his family and friends, particularly his younger sister Chelsea.

At fifteen he got into paintballing building his team, Spitfire, with his friend Brandon.

Angelika smiles as she mentions the nickname he was given. “Bambi, because of his stick legs.”

It’s a small memory but one that allows for a brief moment of happiness before the pain returns.

“It annoys me because he did so well with his heart and he’s a grafter, and he pays for his children, he was a good dad and then this happens, his life just gets taken.”

After three days at Kings, and finally being taken out of the induced coma, Thomas got transferred to Harefield Hospital.

“We thought he was doing alright.  He was paralysed on one arm due to the head injury.  He was able to sit up and talk finally and even be moved around in a wheelchair.

Thomas was able to sit up and talk.

“They put him onto a ward and I went home, get myself sorted and of course wanted to look after my daughter.”

Then came a call that changed things once more.

Angelika was told she had to come straight back to the hospital as things had taken a turn for the worst.

I kept phoning the hospital, tell me if he’s died, but they wouldn’t tell me anything, I wanted to prepare myself if he had.”

It took an agonising four hours for Angelika to get to the hospital where her sister was already waiting.

Finally some doctors and a consultant met them and said there had been complications.

Thomas had died.

“This is what we were all shocked about, he was fine and all of a sudden he died.” recalls Angelika.

Even Sasha recalls how she only spoke to him the day before.

But there was to be one final shock.  After Angelika was told of Thomas’s death, she was allowed to see him.  But unbeknown to her, it was to be the last time she would ever see her son before the funeral.

Thomas was taken to the mortuary for post mortem and Angelika was denied any access.

You can tell the anger that has built up when she speaks about it, “I felt like I’d lost all rights to my son.  Couldn’t do what I wanted to as a mother till the day we laid him to rest.  Felt like everything was taken out of my hands completely.

We still don’t even know the time of death.  I feel the hospital didn’t look after my son after the incident. I just want answers, they said he was fine and then he dies.  We are still even waiting for answers from the post mortem.”

Thomas Kelly had his funeral on his birthday, Feb 5th at Balcombe crematorium with over one hundred people attending.

For Angelika and her family though there is still a long journey ahead as the case into what happened is still open with the police.

“It feels like my family is ripped apart.” she explains.  “I have ended up in hospital myself.  I don’t want to be here. Don’t want to live in Crawley, can’t face it any more.  I’ve still got my daughter who is managing to cope, but she works, goes to college, but she too has her days.  She misses him a lot. I’m getting all the help I can to try and pull myself through.  It’s destroyed our family.

Everyone says I have coped really well, but the truth is, I haven’t.  He was my baby, I idolised him.  Went through a lot with him, everything was Tom.  Now it’s completely nothing, it’s empty.”

Angelika composes herself as she explains that in doing this interview she wanted to make sure people thought about their actions before doing something that couldn’t be changed.

“People need to think first before they go out, thinking they can just throw punches, kick people in the head, they can’t.  They need to think what it does, not just that person, but to parents, to brothers and sisters and the children. 

They can walk the streets with their heads up but the family can’t , the family is ripped apart.  You can’t think ‘I’m just going to go and harm someone.'”

“I don’t want Tom to be forgotten.  He was someone who would help people out, help them with their cars, not even ask for money just a drink.  Everyone called on Tom to fix something.  He was there no matter what. He was so kind hearted.  This is why it is such a shock that anyone could do what they did to him.”

With no sign yet of anything further from the police, Angelika and her family are in limbo waiting.

Angelika with Toms paintballing shirt.

But for Thomas’s daughter, she knows her daddy is still there for her.

Angelika smiles once more as she finishes by talking about her grand-daughter, “She talks about daddy every day.  She walks around the house in his shoes, wears his tops when she goes to bed.  She has everything to do with her dad.  She will say to her mum, daddies watching you, you cant tell me off.  It’s heart breaking for that little girl one minute daddy is there and the next he is gone.

If her dinner is hot, she will hold her food up in the air, when I ask her what she is doing, she says she’s holding it up for daddy to blow on it.”

In memory of Thomas Kelly.

Following the incident a 21-year-old man and a 22-year-old man both from Crawley were arrested on suspicion of GBH with intent.  A 27-year-old man from Crawley was arrested on suspicion of affray and a 23-year-old man from Redhill was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage.  They were all released under investigation.

Anyone with information can contact police online or call 101 quoting Operation Ideford. Alternatively they can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

News

Goodbye summer! Winter hours begin at West Sussex waste sites

New opening times start in October.

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From 1 October 2018, winter opening hours at all 11 Household Waste Recycling Sites (HWRSs) in West Sussex will come into effect.

The opening hours for all sites will be 9am until 4pm and times will be in place until 31 March 2019.

More news: West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service search for on-call firefighters

There will be changes to the days some sites are open. Burgess Hill, Chichester, Worthing, and Crawley will open for six days a week during the winter months. Chichester will close on Tuesdays and Burgess Hill, Worthing, and Crawley will close on Thursdays.

Deborah Urquhart, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Environment, said:

“The changes are based around the demand for services at different times of the year.

“Reducing opening hours during the quieter winter allows us to keep sites open for longer in the summer months when demand is at its highest.”

Further information on Household Waste Recycling Sites can be found at www.recycleforwestsussex.org

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