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Hawkins Celebrates 40 Years of Forensic Investigation

On 1 October 1980 Roy Hawkins and Jack Miller opened the first office of RB Hawkins and Associates, at the new Cambridge Science Parkhaving worked as a private consultancy over the past three years to develop Forensic Investigation work, using experts from within Cambridge University to provide additional expertise in areas including civil engineering, chemical engineering and agriculture as needed. There were two employees initially, physicist John Horsfall who joined from a research post at Cambridge University and part time secretary Val Morton who was taking a year out from university between degrees.

Dr Roy Hawkins, founder of Hawkins & Associates, pictured in his company photograph (left), as well as with his wife Jan (right) at a colleague’s retirement party

Though Roy stood down from managing the company in 2000, he has still been an integral part of the Hawkins team as a trusted advisor and role model to all investigators and staff. Roy has built Hawkins on the principles of thorough scientific investigation and top engineering expertise, but also implores his colleagues to be aware of what forensic engineers do as part of their on-scene work. “When meeting policy holders who have just suffered a loss we have always had to bear in mind that, for many of them, a domestic fire or serious damage to business premises has been one of the most distressing events they have encountered. It has been important to show some sympathy towards them while still remaining objective and impartial.” Though Roy said this earlier in 2020, which has been a strange year for everyone in every profession, remaining impartial, yet sympathetic, has always been important in our industry of discovering why something has gone wrong.

John Horsfall explains that long before 2020, when Hawkins was first established, everything moved at a rather slower pace in the days before email, the Internet and mobile phones. “A particularly fond memory is of visits to the University Library to find information for reports. I had to search the library catalogue and fill in a request form, then a library staff member would fetch the book or map from its storage. This took long enough to enjoy a leisurely lunch in the library café before an afternoon making handwritten notes in the Reading Room.”

Dr John Horsfall in the early days of Hawkins (left) and in his most recent company photograph (right)

As of 1 October 2020 John has been with the company for 40 years, including 20 years being a Director of which 7 years were as Chairman. During that time he has undertaken a wide range of investigations and been an expert witness in Court cases, Coroner’s Inquests and confidential arbitrations. One particularly memorable court case was a claim by the Unites States Government against a plant hire company for damage to a US Air Force aeroplane hit by a runaway tractor, fortunately without any injuries although there was considerable damage. As he landed, the pilot saw the tractor was being followed by a “jogger”, and then as the tractor came closer, realised that there was nobody driving it. This was particularly unusual, as in almost all RTC incidents someone is actually driving the vehicle(s) involved. Alongside his work in other types of investigation, John started the Hawkins road traffic accident investigation group in the 1980s, which has now grown to be the largest private sector team undertaking such work in the UK.

We are immensely proud of Roy and John for growing this company to what it is today, in every industry where Hawkins has provided investigative services or have been expert witnesses. Hawkins would also like to thank each and every client who has instructed us over the years, everyone who has attended a Hawkins event, read a Hawkins technical article, and everyone who has worked for our company throughout the last 40 amazing years. 

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