26th June 2020
After more than 28 years of service, Hawkins would like to thank Mike Charlton of our Manchester Office for all his hard work, and wish him a very happy retirement.
Mike says he has been fortunate to work with some great people while working for Hawkins and has seen the Company grow to its present size from its more humble position when he joined in 1992. At that time, there were 3 offices (Cambridge, Bristol and Manchester), and only two other investigators in Manchester working alongside him--with a lot of the country to cover.
“My first day involved getting on the Suckling Pig (a light aircraft operated by the Suckling group) that flew from Manchester to Cambridge) after which I followed the tradition started with Rod and Andy Bryce in that I was taken to a hardware shop in Cambridge and bought a load of PPE. The rest, as they say, is history.”
Mike had spent the previous 10 years in an engineering consultancy, and was originally involved with the investigation of engineering, metallurgical and corrosion issues, along with personal injury cases, whilst I was being trained to examine the scene of a fire. “As the Company grew and more specialists were recruited, I drifted (entirely to my delight) into the fun-filled world of fire investigation. In my time at Hawkins I have looked at well over 2,000 cases and had the pleasure of attending High Court, County Court, Coroner’s Court, mediations and arbitrations.”
Before becoming the Regional Manager of the Manchester office, Mike also helped Iain Woodward to establish the Leeds Office, which Mike says, “probably goes down in history as having the most unusual access route ever.” They would direct people to drive across the pavement in Garforth town centre, through the gap between Sainsbury’s and the bakers into a tiny square, with the office at one end. After Roy Hawkins’ retirement, Mike held his Regional Manager position for many years and enjoyed helping the company grow, providing “such enjoyable employment to so many people.”
Mike says that whilst some things have certainly changed over the years, there has always been a set of core values, or an ethos, that he feels has separated Hawkins from other firms. “Mobile phones and emails have arrived, but the sense of family/community has remained, even as the Company has grown and continues to grow.” He says he has no doubt that this will continue to be the case.
Some of the tougher cases of Mike’s career include:
- An amusement arcade where 3 or 4 members of the same family were jailed for arson and endangering life
- Underground fire in Manchester city centre that destroyed more than 40000 telephone lines and took out emergency services communications for nearly 1 week.
- Multi-fatality fire in a department store
- Major loss at a motorway service station
- Most seats of fire: Fifty one! In a hotel where a fire had been set in every bedroom; furniture all piled up, blankets draped over the top and petrol poured. Most did not progress and the perpetrator was caught after insurers offered a reward and his wife turned him in! He then implicated the owner of the hotel who had paid him to set the fires.
- Longest smoulder: About 2 weeks! Toilet rolls were ignited during production (by a heated wire that cut the plastic wrapper) and were then wrapped and stacked with limited ventilation. The fire was discovered at high level in a stack in the middle of a warehouse.
Though Mike might not have chosen to retire in strange times and in an uncertain world, he looks forward to enjoying his leisure time and spending more time with his two grandchildren.
“I can honestly say that I have really enjoyed my time with Hawkins and consider myself very lucky. I have got to see strange places (for example, the subterranean tunnels below Manchester, designed and built in the 1950s as cold war refuges), unusual manufacturing processes and bizarre retail outlets; I have also met people with whom I would never usually have spoken. I’ve always tried to empathise with everyone as an individual.”
Chris Botham, Regional Manager of Hawkins Manchester Office, is pictured giving Mike some goodbye gifts at his social-distanced send off.