5 of The Most Infamous Failed Assassinations in History

Presidents, kings and co feature on this list of botched whack jobs...
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Ahmed Dogan

In 2013 Ahmed Dogan was addressing members of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, a Bulgarian political party of which he was chair at the time, at a party congress. As Dogan spoke to a packed room, a man ran up on stage, held a pistol to Dogan's head, and pulled the trigger. And nothing happened. The man was subsequently pounced on, beaten and taken away.

Two things stand out about this series of events. The first is that it looked a lot worse than it actually was. The gun in question was a gas powered pistol containing 3 blank cartridges and no bullets. If the gun had gone off, the injuries to Mr Dogan would've been non-lethal, according to experts.

The second striking feature is just how embarrassing it was for the would be assassin, Oktai Enimehmedov. Imagine all the preparation he has gone through: getting access to the event, concealing a weapon, psyching himself up, and getting onto the stage, only to have his weapon pull a wobbly and metaphorically shit all over him. Then, he went on to get beaten up by a group of middle aged politicians, and even managed to sneak in a “YOLO” to the proceedings (at 0:37 in the video). Hang your head sir.

Pope John Paul 2

You've got to have some serious balls to try and assassinate a Pope. And on 13 May, 1981, Mehmet Ali Agca did just that. As Pope John Paul II completed the rounds of St Peter's Square in his Popemobile, laying hands on adoring followers hoping for his blessing as he went, he was shot in the abdomen by expert gunman Agca with a semi-automatic pistol. The Pope stood, stunned for a moment, before slumping to the seat of his vehicle. He was rushed to Gemelli Hospital, and lost consciousness on the way. When he arrived he had near bled to death, but after 5 hours of surgery he was declared stable. He had survived. (Perhaps he had someone looking out for him?)


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Agca later claimed that he targeted the Pope because he was the ultimate symbol of capitalism, and although he was given a life sentence for his actions, he was pardoned in 2000 at John Paul’s request and extradited to Turkey. John Paul had gone to visit Agca two years after the attack, and spoke for him for twenty minutes. “I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust” said John Paul. Talk about Christian compassion.

Andrew Jackson

Nowadays, if shots were fired at Barack Obama, he would be unable to move for the bodyguards throwing themselves on him like wood onto a fire, all eager to put their lives on the line. In 1835, however, things were slightly different.

President Andrew Jackson was leaving the funeral of a South Carolina Representative when Richard Lawrence approached him with a glint in his eye and a percussion pistol in each hand. Both miraculously misfired, and the Commander-in-chief seized the moment, drawing his cane and beating his attacker to a bloody mess of the stairs of the Capitol building. Jackson had to be restrained by several aides for the safety of his attacker, who was promptly carted of to a mental asylum to rot for the rest of his life.

Although there have been more famous, and more successful attempts on the lives of American Presidents, this was the first, and Andrew Jackson remains the only Commander-in-chief to personally ensure that his attacker left the scene worse off than the man he intended to kill.

Theodore Roosevelt

Another ex-President who deserves a mention here is Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. Although his reaction to being made a target was not as aggressive as Jackson's it was equally as memorable.

Roosevelt made many speeches as he was campaigning for a third term in the White House in 1912, having previously served two terms, but none as remarkable as one he made in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 14. Because that was the only one he made with a bullet lodged firmly in his chest.

Just before Roosevelt stood up to address those present, John Schrank shot at the former President. The bullet went through his eyeglass case and penetrated his skin. Roosevelt knew what had happened and, being a skilled hunter, realised that the bullet hadn't punctured his lung because he wasn't coughing up blood.

The front of his shirt slowly reddening, the former President rose and delivered his speech as planned, starting off by saying “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” Which, you know, is a pretty cool thing to say. After Teddy was done he was examined by doctors, and it was found that the bullet had passed three inches into Roosevelt’s skin and chest muscle.

It was decided that it would be dangerous to try and remove it, and so the bullet stayed close to Roosevelt’s heart, in many ways, until the day he died. As for Schrank, he was hauled off to a mental hospital, claiming that the ghost of William McKinley – 25th President of the United States – had told him to kill the ex-President. Besides, and rather more sensibly, he was against President’s serving for more than two terms.

King James et al

Every year, we remember the 1604 attempt to assassinate King James (plus his family, and many of the Protestant aristocracy) in the House of Lords with the fireworks that could've been, but it's easy to forget just how much was at stake in early November of that year. If successful, Robert Catesby, leader of the Catholic assassins, and his gang – which famously included one Guy Fawkes – would've changed the course of British history.

The reason that Fawkes himself is so famous today is that he was essentially the man who drew the short straw: while the others fled London on 4 November, Fawkes was tasked with loading explosives into a leased undercroft directly under the House of Lords.

Fawkes and his cronies were ratted out by Lord Monteagle, a Catholic who had received a letter warning him to stay away from Parliament at the time that the explosion was to take place. After a thorough investigation by the suspicious King’s Men, Fawkes was found, and other co-conspirators were later rounded up and taken to their execution on January 31.

The executions themselves were almost as exciting as the plot. The group were to be hung, drawn and quartered, but crafty Fawkes managed to cheat the system by jumping from the gallows early, subsequently breaking his neck. Not the most pleasant experience, but he saved himself an unimaginable amount of pain. When Robert Keyes, another member of the crew, tried to do the same, he found that his neck was made of sterner stuff, and he remained alive to experience his gruesome fate.