Annie Gross was a black entertainer from America. She and her husband Harry had been working in New York before touring British Music Halls.
Harry Gross had left Annie for an actress called Jessie Mackintosh, they were living in actors lodgings in Coram Street, Central London. He had been in a song and dance act in the New Cross Empire and was throwing a party to celebrate its success before leaving for Sheffield. At around Midnight that night the doorbell rang and Miss Mackintosh went to answer the door, but saw a little girl was running away, she tried to catch the girl but couldn’t so returned to the party, telling the other party goers.
A couple of hours later, Jessie Mackintosh came face to face with Annie Gross either in the bedroom or on the landing. though accounts differ with regards to the exact location. Gross fired a revolver several times, Harry Gross rushed out to see what was happening, and had the gun pointed at him, his wife pulled the trigger but there were no bullets left. She rushed past him and out into the street. Later she gave her self up to a Police Officer at Russel Square.
The case was reported by a number of newpapers. The Illustrated Police News ran a story and published an artists impression of of the shooting. The Times reported ‘Arrest of a coloured woman’
The Daily Chronicle of Monday 2 December 1912 had ‘Actress shot in Bloomsbury. Murder by Six-Foot Negress. Music Hall Party Tradgedy. Midnight entry to house by trick’.
The revolver had been acquired by a man of colour Frank Craig. Craig was arrested by police but then released by the police when they couldn’t disprove his statement that the gun had been for Mrs Gross’s protection as ‘she was the only coloured woman in the house’ .
The trial was in January 1913. The jury heard the the Gross’s were married in Chicago 1903 and then left for London in 1908, to be joined later by his wife. After arriving in London, he had taken her money, tried to get her deported and forced her into prostitution and then left her for another woman.
Annie Gross told the Jury that she hadn’t meant to kill Mackintosh but had gone to speak to her husband, when he had hit her she pulled out the gun, and fired, not realising that she had hit Mackintosh. The judge told the jury that if Gross had hit his wife, and tshe then killed him the verdict should be manslaughter, but if she had hidden in the house and then emerged to kill the mistress hours later, then the verdict should be murder.
After 35 minutes the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter. The judge disagreed with them and told them so. The Daily Mail reported the verdict and alluded to their disapproval of inter racial sex. The Times reported that it was odd that a manslaughter verdict be passed in a Murder trial, and that the judge told the juy that he disagreed with their verdict.
Annie Gross was given a sentence of five years in Prison. Jeffery Green writes in the book ‘Black Edwardians’;
” Surely the jury had felt that she had suffered enough, with the beatings, humiliation and prostitution. They also probabaly had no respect for the dead woman who had taken up with a Black entertainer from the United States”.
The Sydney Morning Herald – Annie Gross