Tasmanian political figures have expressed their shock at the news of the death of former parliamentary driver Mike Hawkes, 70, who was allegedly murdered in the state’s north on Tuesday.
- Michael Hawkes was a highly respected driver for members of the Tasmanian Parliament
- The 70-year-old’s body was found at his Reedy Marsh home on Tuesday
- After a 24-hour police search, a 47-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday afternoon
Robert Gerard, 47, of Waverley, appeared in the Launceston Magistrates Court on Thursday charged with murder.
He did not enter a plea and has been remanded in custody to reappear in court later in January.
Mr Hawkes’ body was found at his Reedy Marsh home west of Launceston just before 6:00pm on Tuesday.
His wife was treated for lacerations and released from hospital.
Former Liberal MP Bob Cheek said he was devastated to learn of the death of his old friend.
“When I was leader of the opposition and leader of the Liberal Party, Mike became my driver and we spent a lot of time together,” he said.
“When you’re getting home late from functions and travelling long distances, you become very close, we talked a lot, talked about our personal lives and families.”
The highly respected driver retired several years ago.
Mr Cheek said Mr Hawkes was almost part of the family because the pair were travelling together so much.
“I really liked the guy. I really respected him,” Mr Cheek said.
“They say when you go into politics, make sure you get a dog, because that’s the only friend you’ll have.
“Well, I probably had my dog, but I also had Mike, and that’s why I’m devastated to hear the news.”
Mr Cheek said the former driver had a guesthouse where he had stayed three or four times.
“He used to have all the wild animals around his house and he’d put the spotlights on them — wallabies, bandicoots and everything else you could imagine used to come around the house and he was very proud of that,” he said.
During the final years of Peg Putt’s time as Tasmanian Greens leader, Mr Hawkes was her driver.
Ms Putt said she was devastated by the news of his death.
“He was a top bloke and such a safe pair of hands. He also showed me his bush property with pride,” she said.
“I especially remember the two tribes of native hens, one of which he christened ‘the Taliban’.”
Mr Hawkes was also the driver for Burnie Mayor and former Labor MP Steve Kons, who described him as very athletic.
“He was a giant, over 6 feet tall, and very motivated with his fitness,” Mr Kons said.
Mr Kons said they spent hours on the road together, driving between Burnie and Hobart, and Mr Hawkes took a keen interest in his portfolios.
“He always cared about other people, cared about doing his job properly,” he said.
A neighbour, who didn’t want to be named, described Mr Hawkes as a friend.
“He and Judy were a close couple, with a long marriage,” he said.
He said the Reedy Marsh property had a number of houses on it and Mr Hawkes had lived there since the early 1990s.
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