Parents of Angel Lynn, who was left paralysed in van fall, tell of their agony
For Angel Lynn’s 21st birthday, her parents had dreamed of giving her a party to remember. They looked forward to seeing their beautiful daughter, looking sensational in a new outfit, dancing the night away with her friends.
So the reality of her coming of age last December was nothing short of heartbreaking. Brain-damaged 18 months ago after falling from a moving van in a terrifying kidnap ordeal, the birthday girl arrived not in her finery, but in a wheelchair.
Her parents, Nikki and Patrick Lynn, choked back tears as they collected Angel from the nursing home where 24-hour care keeps her alive and took her back to the family’s three-bed semi in Loughborough.
Unable to walk, speak, smile or eat, Angel is fed though a tube directly to her stomach. Her parents had no idea whether she recognised them or any of the assembled guests.
Despite the balloons, the music, the cards and the gifts of jewellery, perfume and clothes, there was no way of telling if she even knew it was her milestone birthday.
Our Angel: Before the kidnap. Nikki has agreed to speak to me because she wants people to know about the person Angel was before she had the misfortune to fall for Chay Bowskill
‘My heart broke into pieces to see Angel’s friends painting her nails and doing her hair and make-up as she sat in her wheelchair,’ says Nikki, her voice faltering.
‘We couldn’t tell if she was happy or not because she can’t express any emotion.
‘I kept thinking this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. She should have been out having fun, posting all her pictures on social media like her friends and cousin, who turned 21 last October.’
The party ended with drama, not dancing, when Angel’s oxygen levels plummeted dangerously low and she had to be rushed back to the nursing home.
That night, Nikki and Patrick cried themselves to sleep, mourning the daughter they had lost and praying for a miracle.
Bubbling up amid all their pain and distress was another emotion: molten anger at the two young men they blame for ruining Angel’s life and, by extension, the lives of their whole family.
They will forever be haunted by the CCTV footage that captured the moment when Angel was snatched off the street by her abusive boyfriend Chay Bowskill, 20, following a row.
They can never forgive him for pinning her arms in a bear hug and lifting her off her feet, then bundling her into a van which was driven away at speed by his mate Rocco Sansome, also 20.
They long to know exactly how Angel came to fall from the van as it sped at 60mph along the A6 near Loughborough on the morning of September 17, 2020.
Instead, all they have is Bowskill’s insistence that she jumped, or accidentally tumbled, into the road and wasn’t pushed.
In January, at Leicester Crown Court, Bowskill was jailed for seven-and-a-half years after being found guilty of kidnap, controlling and coercive behaviour and perverting the course of justice.
However, on Wednesday the Court of Appeal, to the relief of Angel’s family, increased that sentence to 12 years.
Angel pictured as she is now. Her parents, Nikki and Patrick Lynn, choked back tears as they collected Angel from the nursing home where 24-hour care keeps her alive
‘Miss Lynn is likely to be severely disabled, mentally and physically, for the rest of her life, and will be dependent on others for all aspects of her care,’ Dame Victoria Sharp, President of the Queen’s Bench Division, said.
She added that the kidnap had been ‘the culmination of a pattern of abuse at the hands of Bowskill’, who had been in a relationship with Miss Lynn for about a year.
Bowskill, who had previous convictions for cannabis offences, possession of a knife, attempted robbery, dangerous driving and taking a vehicle without consent, denied pushing Angel from the van and was cleared by a jury of causing grievous bodily harm.
Claiming she had climbed from the front seat into the back of the van after he told her their relationship was over, he said he hadn’t seen what happened next but she must have either jumped or accidentally fallen out after opening the sliding door.
Sansome, who had no previous convictions, was jailed for just 21 months at a young offenders’ institution for his part in the kidnap, which he denied. His sentence remains unchanged and, with time already spent on remand, he could be released next month.
‘They have never once said sorry for what happened to Angel or asked how she is. I don’t think they care,’ says Nikki. ‘To my mind, no punishment would be too severe and we will never forgive them.’
Nikki has agreed to speak to me because she wants people to know about the person Angel was before she had the misfortune to fall for Bowskill.
Blessed with model-girl looks and a sunny nature, Angel was a devoted big sister to Kelsie, ten, and to her eight-year-old brother Jimmy, who has autism and learning difficulties.
She was also very close to her older sister Reannon, 30, and brothers Lewis, 28, and Lester, 26, from Nikki’s first marriage, who have also been left devastated.
In January, at Leicester Crown Court, Bowskill (above) was jailed for seven-and-a-half years. However, on Wednesday the Court of Appeal, to the relief of Angel’s family, increased that sentence to 12 years
A beautiful blonde-haired child, Angel never realised how pretty she was. Although she grew to love clothes and make-up, she equally enjoyed jet-skiing, riding quad bikes and paintballing.
Her ambitions at college, where she studied public services, were to work in forensic science, get married abroad on a beach, and save for a house of her own.
‘Everyone used to comment on how beautiful her hair was, telling her she could be a model,’ says Nikki. ‘She always had a smile on her face and was so happy but Chay Bowskill took all that away. He took her away from her family, her friends, from herself even.’
Nikki and Patrick took an instant dislike to Angel’s cocky new boyfriend, whom she met through friends when she was 18.
‘I had no idea who he was or where he was from,’ says Nikki. ‘He didn’t have a job and boasted to Angel that he didn’t need one. I could see what he saw in her but had absolutely no idea why she liked him. I thought he was just a bit of a rogue and it would all fizzle out. I had no idea how bad he really was.’
Like many parents, Nikki and Patrick worried about voicing their concerns too loudly, for fear of upsetting their daughter.
They wish now they had taken a good look at Bowskill’s Facebook page, which showed pictures of him posing thuggishly with a knife and a knuckleduster.
‘Angel changed unbelievably after meeting him. She spent nearly all her time with him at his mum’s house and hardly ever brought him home,’ says Nikki, 47, who runs a cleaning company with 54-year-old Patrick.
‘She was a stunning girl but she started wearing baggy tracksuits and all her college ambitions seemed to vanish. She stopped seeing her friends and hanging out with her brothers so much because I think she knew they wouldn’t tolerate the way he treated her.’
Once, Nikki recalls, Angel returned home upset in the early hours after Bowskill had kicked her out of his house following a row.
Danger: Angel passes the van driven by Sansome. Her parents will forever be haunted by the CCTV footage that captured the moment when she was snatched off the street by her abusive boyfriend Bowskill, 20, following a row
Terrifying: Bowskill jumps out to confront her. ‘They have never once said sorry for what happened to Angel or asked how she is. I don’t think they care,’ says Nikki
She urged Angel to ditch him but she meekly returned to him.
Nikki grew to hate the way Bowskill called all the shots, insisting that Angel must be home at 6pm to receive his phone calls when they couldn’t be together, or demanding photos to ‘prove’ where she was when she was out with girlfriends.
But Angel, seemingly in his thrall, batted away her parents’ concerns.
‘You can advise your children but start telling them what to do at that age and you fear they’ll just walk away,’ says Nikki.
‘But to sit in court and hear all the disgusting names he called my daughter in text messages, the way he treated her, was mortifying.’
Nothing, however, could have prepared Nikki for the horror of the frantic phone call she received on September 17, 2020, from Patrick, and his desperate words: ‘Angel. A6. Air ambulance.’
‘I didn’t know what had happened,’ recalls Nikki, ‘so I jumped in my car and drove to the A6. I was so desperate to get to Angel, I drove along the grass verge to get past all the queueing traffic, but the police wouldn’t let me through.’
Airlifted to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham with horrific head injuries, Angel had to undergo emergency surgery for a bleed on the brain.
‘When we arrived at the hospital they put us in the family room next to intensive care and told us “this is bad — Angel isn’t going to make it”,’ recalls Nikki.
‘I had no idea then that Angel came out of the side of a van. I didn’t know Chay and Rocco had been arrested at the scene. I only knew she was so badly injured, the doctors thought she wouldn’t make it through the night.’
Nikki breaks down in tears when she describes the moment she first saw Angel, more than seven hours after her emergency surgery.
‘I’d never seen so many tubes and machines. Her whole body was battered and bruised; her head was shaved on one side and her hair was matted with blood. Her swollen head was about four times the size it should have been. It was so big I thought it was going to explode.
‘She looked dead already. I thought she was gone.’
They stayed the night with Angel but had to leave the next morning because of Covid restrictions, the enforced separation adding to their agony.
So many times they feared Angel wouldn’t survive or were warned by doctors to prepare for the worst.
Kidnap: He seizes Angel (still from CCTV footage pictured left) and lifts her off her feet (right)
Fate sealed: Bowskill roughly carries her to the vehicle on the morning of September 17, 2020
She had to undergo further brain surgery after suffering terrifying seizures. Then she contracted Covid, followed by life-threatening pneumonia and a collapsed lung.
Although she is blind in one eye and partially paralysed, Angel has shown some slight signs of improvement in recent months, and her family hope she may have found a way to communicate with them.
‘She has learnt how to squeeze our hands when we ask her questions. When we asked her if she wanted to come home, I can’t tell you how hard she squeezed,’ says Nikki.
‘We want her home as soon as possible because it’s where she wants to be. We’re hoping it will stimulate her more and help her recovery but we need to raise the funds to get her here.
‘She can’t eat because of the risk of food going down the wrong way. And she can’t lie flat for too long, otherwise her oxygen levels drop.’
The toll of the past 18 months has been almost unbearable for Nikki, who is now taking anti-depressants. ‘There were days when I just didn’t want to get out of bed,’ she says. ‘My eldest daughter had to move down from Newcastle to help me, taking the younger children to school and doing all the washing.
‘Patrick was unable to work for three months. He couldn’t even leave the house to go to the shop because he couldn’t face other people. But it was Kelsie I felt most sorry for, caught in the middle between a younger brother with learning disabilities and an older sister with life-changing injuries.’
Since Angel was transferred to an NHS-funded private nursing facility last year, she been allowed home for short visits on about ten occasions. The family has bought a vehicle to accommodate her wheelchair, oxygen tanks and suction machines, but each visit is filled with anxiety.
‘Angel’s wheelchair won’t fit through the front door so we have to push her down the side of the house, through a shed and into the living room through the conservatory,’ says Nikki.
However, the Lynns’ eventual aim is to care for Angel permanently at home and so far they have raised almost £130,000 through GoFundMe to pay for house alterations.
Given the extent of Angel’s disabilities, though, Nikki says even that generous sum ‘won’t touch the sides of what needs to be done’.
As for the boyfriend who snatched her off the street, at least he now has something approaching the sentence she believes he deserves.