Fateful errors…


Excuse me, could you please tell me the way to...

At a dinner party this evening we got onto the subject, for a while, of fateful errors and opportunistic assassinations. Perhaps the most fateful was Leopold Loyka’s 28 June 1914 error in taking a wrong turning in Sarajevo. He was Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s chauffeur and had already saved the Archduke’s life that day by swerving to avoid an assassin’s bomb. Commendably, the Archduke insisted on visiting some soldiers injured in the ensuing explosion. In Wiki’s words, the hospital  ‘was off the planned route and Lojka had not been informed of the change in plans and was not familiar with the new route. Consequently, as he was driving away from the hospital to head out of Sarajevo, Lojka took a wrong turn down a backstreet. Realising his mistake, Lojka began to reverse out. However, it so happened that Black Hand assassin Gavrilo Princip was sitting in a café on the street just as Ferdinand’s car began to pull into it. Princip seized his chance and ran out of the café with his pistol. Spotting him, Lojka attempted to reverse faster, but his foot missed the accelerator pedal. As a consequence, Princip shot and killed the Archduke and his wife.’  The rest, as we know, was ghastly history. Of course, you have already to be of murderous intent to benefit from such coincidences. We started to cite other such potential ‘accidents’. I recalled a personal experience where I was once mistakenly invited to meet the Prime Minister in 10 Downing Street in the cabinet room in the mistaken assumption that I was an ‘angry farmer’ (this was during the BSE crisis). I still remember the surprised expression on John Major’s face and the crestfallen expression on some poor secretary’s face as she realised that I was not, in fact, the leader of the ‘angry farmers’. In 1985 an American friend, seeing a scrum around one of the entrances to the European Commission’s Berlaymont building, got closer to see what was going on. He was grabbed and shoved into a lift by security guards. Pushed out of the lift, he was given a glass of champagne and, backing away, bumped into somebody. He turned around to excuse himself to find himself facing Pope Giovanni Paolo II…


  1. Hugo Kijne

    It’s easy to see how you could be mistaken for an angry farmer though 🙂

  2. Per Sommerschield

    The sort of story in which Hitchcock excelled..

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