A TRIAL concerning the murder of a Hampshire man has been halted after a defendant tested positive for coronavirus.

A judge has halted a 10-week murder trial after one of five defendants was taken to court despite having tested positive for Covid-19.

The jury was set to be sworn in at Winchester Crown Court for the trial in connection with the death of Gurinderjit Rai.

Mr Rai was found shot in a lay-by in Corhampton on July 19 2019.

However, defendant Paul White had now tested positive.

The 27-year-old had already been taken to the court cells along with two co-defendants, as well as a defendant in another case, when the test result became known.

The court heard that he had also been in contact with his legal team before his test status was revealed.

The judge, Mrs Justice Cutts, told the court that, because of the close contact, there would be no dock officers available, the cells would be locked down and deep cleaned, and much of the court building was also likely to be shut down for the day.

She said that anyone who had been in close connection with White should seek a Covid-19 test.

The judge added that each of the defendants would be isolated and returned to prison individually in special Covid-secure vans.

She said: “The cells will not operate today, this whole court building will not operate today. Each defendant will go in special Covid vans, then there needs to be a deep cleaning of the cells.

“Areas where those who have been in close proximity with Mr White will also be deep cleaned.”

The trial had been set up over two courtrooms to accommodate five defendants, their legal teams, the jury and other court staff in accordance with social-distancing requirements.

The judge said the impact of the delay could cause the case to be adjourned to a future date because of the difficulty of accommodating such a large case over a 10-week period.

Mrs Justice Cutts said: “We live in such extraordinary times. We will do all we can, if it is safe to do so, for this case to start.”

She adjourned the case until Friday January 15 for a hearing to determine when the case can be re-started and the jury sworn in.

A court spokeswoman confirmed that all custodial cases had been affected but hearings for defendants on bail in other courtrooms were continuing.

White, of Winchester, along with Corin Barlow, 41, of Horley, Surrey, Aston Hannis, 29, of Eastleigh, and Charlie Statham, 30, of Winchester, all deny a charge of murder. Barlow also denies possession of a firearm.

Phillip Hodan, 43, of Owslebury, Hampshire, denies being involved in organised crime activities, including the murder of Mr Rai and supplying Class A drugs.