THE funeral of one of the mums who died after giving birth at a Winchester hospital was held yesterday.

The church, at the Hospital of St Cross in Winchester, was packed for the service for mother-of-three Amy Kimmance.

Mrs Kimmance, 39, gave birth at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital (RHCH) on December 21, but died of a Group A streptococcal infection two days later.

She died the day before Jasmine Pickett, 29, who also had her baby on December 21 at the RHCH.

Members of staff at the maternity unit are understood to have been invited to the service.

Investigations are ongoing into the cause of the infections that killed the women.

Janie Pearman, head of midwifery, said: "When I heard about the two women I thought there must be a link. We started with that premise, but as yet we have not been able to find it."

The hospital has revealed that both women had contracted the same strain of the infection.

But they were treated in separate areas, as one had a Caesarean and one a natural birth.

No member of staff was involved with both women. The deaths are the first in the maternity unit at the RHCH in 11 years.

A mother in the maternity unit has spoken of her concerns. Judith Rutherford, 35, from Hiltingbury, who recently gave birth to daughter Zoe, said: "There is a natural sense of nervousness, but staff have been very reassuring.

"The consultant came to see if we had concerns or questions. They have been very open and seem to have put in place all the procedures you would expect."

Staff at St Swithun's School, where Mrs Kimmance worked, have paid tribute to her.

A statement issued by head teacher Dr Helen Harvey said Mrs Kimmance joined the school in September 2002, becoming head of maths a year later.

"She was a talented teacher of the highest intellectual calibre who quickly gained the respect, admiration and trust of her pupils and inspired in them her own love of her subject," said Dr Harvey.

"Amy had a caring and sensitive approach to the pastoral aspects of her role as a teacher and balanced the potentially conflicting demands of career and family with a skill and care second to none.

"A hugely valued member of the school community, Amy will be greatly missed by her pupils, colleagues and friends and we are all struggling to come to terms with the loss of such a talented and caring individual. Our thoughts are with John, Oliver, Alice and Tess at this difficult time."

The funeral for Mrs Pickett is likely to be held next week in her home village of Colden Common.

Last night the Winchester and Eastleigh healthcare NHS Trust gave details of the panel that will oversee the investigation.

Its members are: Dr Kevin Stewart, medical director at the trust; Lynda Banister, non-executive director; Alison Huggett, head of patient safety; and Fiona Smart, associate director at Hampshire Primary Care Trust.

External experts are Dr Iain Blair, director of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Health Protection Unit; Dr Androulla Efstratiou, from the Health Protection Agency; Paul Lewis, dean of midwifery at Bournemouth University, and a consultant obstetrician yet to be appointed.