IT was an elementary error that gave her away. Written on a label found inside a parcel fished out of a Hampshire stream was the name of 'Jeffery' and following a protracted investigation, police were led to a New Forest cottage where they arrested a woman suspected of dumping her dead baby son.

Under cloudless skies, conditions on July 13, 1920, were perfect for harvesting. Throughout the day, farm workers had toiled in a field near Rushington stream, Totton, when one suddenly spotted the parcel, tied up with rope, and bobbing up and down in the water. Unable to reach it himself, hire carter Samuel Bailey called out to a labourer to retrieve it, but when they opened the package, the pair were shocked by its contents - the body of a newly born boy.

Local bobby Pc Jefferies was quickly on the scene and after conducting a superficial examination, took the corpse to the Red Lion Hotel in the village. While awaiting the arrival of Dr Henry Shepherd, he examined the brown paper wrappings and a sheet inside which bore the name of Jeffery.

The doctor however swiftly ruled out the possibility the baby had been murdered. Although the organs of the well-nourished child, who he estimated weighed 12lbs at birth, were healthy, the post-mortem revealed his lungs had collapsed and did not contain air. He had been stillborn.

But who was Jeffery and who had posted the parcel?

Daily Echo: The Red Lion, Totton, Southampton.The Red Lion, Totton, Southampton. (Image: Echo)

Eventually the officer got a lead which took him to the firm of Oliver's Boots in Southampton where manager George Washer identified the label as being one of their own. On June 8, he had packed up a pair of boots and had them delivered by a carrier to Lily Whitehorn who lived in Minstead.

A fortnight later, the officer discovered the same carrier had delivered a package from John Jeffery, a tailor who traded in the High Street, Southampton, to Francis Wolfe, landlord of the Trusty Servant in Minstead where Whitehorn worked as a cook. In company with Cadnam-based Pc Goff, he went to the inn on July 15 when Wolfe confirmed that after opening the parcel, he had put the brown paper in the drawer and thought no more of it.

Goff asked him: "Would Miss Whitehorn have had access to it?"

Wolfe replied: "Yes. She has worked for me for three or four years in the kitchen and could easily have taken the paper if she wished."

The officers then spoke to Whitehorn who emphatically denied ordering any boots that month. "I had no boots from Oliver's on that date. I had a pair on May 11 for my little girl. I know nothing about the boots or the body found at Totton."

Daily Echo: Minstead, New ForestMinstead, New Forest (Image: Echo)

Whitehorn had been the subject of endless gossip in the neighbourhood that she was the mother but defiantly denied it. "I have not had a baby since my little girl was born 12 years ago. I know what they are saying about here but it's not true."

The officers then left telling her they were making further inquiries, but the following day Goff went to her cottage and charged her with concealment of birth. "I didn't do it," she once more protested but on the way to the police station, she eventually confessed that she had tried to dispose of her baby after finding he was dead.

She had first buried him in her garden but then dug him up and wrapped him up in the brown paper, unaware she had inadvertently left the label in it. She then flung it over a bridge into the water.

Whitehorn, who was 29, was committed to Hampshire Assizes where, on November 22, she admitted concealment and was jailed for six months after Superintendent Jones told Mr Justice Coleridge she was a woman with "very bad moral character."