A HAMPSHIRE police officer was castigated by a judge for the delayed arrival of key witnesses, though it was not entirely his own fault.

PC Grant was so overwhelmed by the criticism and told his expenses would not be reimbursed he collapsed outside the court room from a broken blood vessel.

Mary Smith was accused of endeavouring to conceal the birth of her infant daughter and the hearing at Hampshire Assizes should have opened on March 2, 1858, but the preceding trial had overrun its estimated length and the four principle witnesses were released to return to their homes in Gosport.

It was then scheduled to begin the following morning but when the case was called at 9am, Mr Justice Willes learnt the earliest they could reach Winchester by train was not until 9.30am.

Unable to contain his anger, he rebuked Grant.

"This court is not to be trifled with. Nine o'clock is the hour of sitting and witnesses cannot be allowed to alter it. You are a proper person to make an example of.

"The policeman in a case ought to look after the witnesses and keep them together. It was your duty to do so and as you have not, your expenses must be disqualified."

The case was shuffled back in the list.

Jurors then heard Smith had been in service at a house in Alverstoke where housekeeper Mary Cummings suspected she had given birth. In her room, Cummings said she wanted to examine her box.

"You will find nothing in there," Smith insisted.

However Cummings would not accept her denial and on being given the key, opened it to find it contained the body of a newly born baby wrapped in a dress.

Defence barrister Mr Coleridge - later to become Mr Justice Coleridge - did not dispute the facts and mounted a legal challenge that the final disposition of the infant meant it fell outside the meaning of the statute.

However, the judge overruled him and Smith was jailed for three months.