SHE professed she did not know she was expecting until moments before birth, even more adamant that she had never hurt her baby daughter.

But the infant was dead and not by natural causes.

She had died from an internal haemorrhage after being stabbed three times with scissors.

Rosaline Smith, just 20, was a killer.

On March 6, 1931, she was charged that 'by a certain act, to wit, stabbing, did cause the death of a newly born female child, she at the time not being fully recovered from the effects of giving birth to such a child.'

Smith had left school in Winchester to work first as a maid and then as a bottle washer at the city's Lion Brewery but had to give it up as she was not strong enough to do the work.

But she had acquired a boyfriend. A good steady relationship it seemed existed between them but suddenly she broke it off, emphatically telling her mother Alice there was nothing wrong with her.

However, on February 12, she woke up in pain but initially refused to see the doctor. Eventually she consented and he gave her a prescription for medication. While she remained in bed, her mother collected it and on her return, administered some.

Then, she heard a strange noise.

"I was going across the room when I heard a small cry," she told magistrates at the committal proceedings. "It struck me it came from underneath the bed. I looked under the bed and thought it came from a tin box. I pulled the box out and found a baby in it. There was a rag in the box as well, with blood on it."

Smith picked the child up and gave her to her daughter who seemed very pleased she was still alive and started talking to her.

But concerned by couple of marks on her chest, which resembled scratches, she went downstairs and wrote a letter to the doctor. Then she went out to try and find a nurse which took her over an hour.

She arrived at the house in Upper Brooke Street at virtually the same time as the doctor.

Her daughter then explained how the baby girl had been born while her mother had gone for the medicine but thinking she was dead, put her in the tin box. When her mother asked her to explain about the marks on the chest, she replied she did know how they had occurred. All she could surmise was that the baby had come into contact with the clasp on the box.

"If it had not been dead, I would never have put it in the box."

Oliver Barnett, appearing for the Director of Public Prosecutions, inquired of Smith: "Did you ask her if she did anything to the child." Smith confirmed she had and her daughter told her: "I would not do anything to it. I would not kill my own child."

But Dr C S Fuller disagreed.

He told the court that when he first examined the baby, her heart was barely audible. There were three wounds on her and she died about an hour later. Three days later he conducted a post mortem which revealed, in addition to bruising on the left buttock and a red linear mark on the left side of the neck, one wound about half an inch deep and two an inch deep, deducing the cause of death as being haemorrhage from the wounds which must have been inflicted with a blunt instrument.

Barnett then produced a brown trunk and Fuller confirmed there was nothing on it which could have made the injury. "There was also no sign of blood on the clasp."

Inspector Miles told the court how he searched the front bedroom and found bloodstained scissors in the top drawer of the dressing table.

On March 6, he escorted the defendant from the city's infirmary to the police station for questioning before charging her over the infant's death to which she replied under caution: "I did not stab it. I had nothing to stab it with. Even if I have done, I would not have done so."

Miles then explained to the magistrates that she meant if she had something with which to stab the child, she would not have done it.

At the conclusion of the prosecution's evidence, the young mother was asked if she had anything to say in her defence. Replying 'no,' she was told she would be committed for trial.

She applied for bail but following a strenuous objection from the chief constable, it was refused and in a flood of tears, she had to be assisted out of the dock.

Her case however was not heard at the forthcoming Hampshire Assizes in July as custom would have demanded. Instead she was told it was being transferred to the Berkshire sessions which would take place in June.

However, those proceedings were conducted in May when she appeared before Mr Justice Wright.

The hearing was mercifully short.

Raglan Somerset, the prosecuting barrister, confirmed the fatal injuries were inflicted at the time of birth or shortly afterwards.

"It is pre-eminently one of those cases for which a merciful Act was passed because it appears that after the girl had injured the child, she forgot what she had done and was seen fondling and making much of the baby she had destroyed.

"She said that until the moment the child was born, she did not know she was going to have a child. There was no one in the house at the time and she did not know what had happened."

He added that a Winchester magistrate had taken a firm interest in Smith and would undertake for her to be properly cared for if bound over.

"I am very glad to hear so," the judge remarked. "It is very kind of the lady to take the trouble."

He then invited the magistrate, Miss Firmstone, into the witness box and she confirmed she would ensure she would live at a house in Southampton. "I do not want her to go back to Winchester."

The judge accordingly bound her over on the condition she was under the magistrate's protection.