THERE was no attempt at prevarication.

“I’m guilty, my lord, and that’s all there is to be said about the matter.”

Hugh Flinn had confessed to murder, despite a repeated warning from the judge about the consequence of his admission.

“You will receive no mercy,” cautioned Mr Justice Holroyd.

The court clerk - then carrying the more colourfully title as the Crier of the Court - took him to one side and together with his barrister, Mr Selwyn, at some length imparted advice.

Flinn, an army corporal, then turned to the judge and retracted his confession: “Not guilty.”

Selwyn feared there would be no mitigating circumstances in the case but if any doubt existed, implored the jury to give him the benefit.

It says much for the speed of justice 200 years ago that the soldier was being tried for the capital offence of murder less than a week after it had allegedly happened.

The principal evidence heard at Hampshire Assizes on March 2, 1818, came from Private John Lawless who had been sent from Gosport with Flinn and James Rainey to rejoin the 18th Regiment at Bristol.

At Crofton, some two miles from Titchfield where they had quartered for the night, Lawless, suddenly aware of a commotion, turned round to see Rainey lying face down on the ground with Flinn repeatedly striking him with his firelock.

“He is dead, you have murdered him,” Lawless shouted to Flynn whose response was to throw away the barrel and pick up Rainey’s firelock with its bayonet fixed, with the threat: “I will serve you in the same way.”

By chance the killing was partly observed by a man called Chase who had been standing on the opposite side of the road and saw the three soldiers pass, one ahead of the other two.

Unsurprisingly the gardener, who was walking to Titchfield, thought no more of it and had turned to speak to another man James Bevis when he heard a groan. Hearing Lawless call out, he stopped Flinn who casually remarked: “Never mind, I shall be hanged.”

Bevis asked Flinn why he had done it, to be simply told: “I had my revenge and that’s all I want.”

Pc John January who escorted him to the County Jail at Winchester, told jurors of a short conversation between Flinn and his wife.

“I heard him tell her he was sorry for what he had been done but it was too late to recall it. He said Rainey had not treated him well as they went out, nor on their return.”

The medical evidence was provided by surgeon J A Ricketts who found two wounds on Rainey’s back and one in his belly. His skull had also been shattered.

Jurors spent little time determining Flinn’s fate and when asked by the judge why sentence should be passed on him, he shouted aloud: “Lord, have mercy on me.”

A petition for a reprieve was swiftly launched as it was rejected.

The law must taken its course, his supporters were told, and Flinn was hanged a week later, his body afterwards conveyed to the County Hospital for dissection.