General Oskar Potiorek, Governor of the Austrian provinces of Bosnia-Herzegovina, invited Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Inspector of the Austro-Hungarian Army, and his wife, Sophie von Chotkovato, to watch his troops on maneuvers in June, 1914.
Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, knew that the visit would be dangerous. A large number of people living in Bosnia-Herzegovina were unhappy with Austrian rule and favoured union with Serbia. Ferdinand was aware that in 1910 a Serb, Bogdan Zerajic, had attempted to assassinate General Varesanin, the Austrian governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina, when he was opening parliament in Sarajevo.
Zerajic was a member of the Black Hand (Unity or Death) group who wanted Bosnia-Herzegovina to leave the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The leader of the group was Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijevic, the chief of the Intelligence Department of the Serbian General Staff. Dimitrijevic considered Franz Ferdinand a serious threat to a union between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia. He was worried that Ferdinand's plans to grant concessions to the South Slavs would make an independent Serbian state more difficult to achieve. When it was announced that Franz Ferdinand was going to visit Bosnia in June 1914, Dimitrijevic began to make plans to assassinate him.
Dragutin Dimitrijevic, and his fellow conspirators, Milan Ciganovic and Major Voja Tankosic, sent three members of the Black Hand group based in Belgrade, Gavrilo Princip, Nedjelko Cabrinovic and Trifko Grabez, to carry out the deed. Each man was given a revolver, two bombs and small vial of cyanide. The three men were instructed to commit suicide after Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been killed as it was important to Dimitrijevic that the men did not have the opportunity to confess that members of the Serbian Army were involved in the assassination. Princip, Cabrinovic and Grabez were all suffering from tuberculosis and knew they would not live long. They all agreed they were willing to give their life for what they believed was a great cause: Bosnia-Herzegovina achieving independence from Austro-Hungary.
Unknown to Dragutin Dimitrijevic, Major Voja Tankosic, was informing Nikola Pasic, the prime minister of Serbia about the plot. Although Pasic supported the main objectives of the Black Hand group, he did not want the assassination to take place as he feared it would lead to a war with Austro-Hungaria. He therefore gave instructions for Gavrilo Princip, Nedjelko Cabrinovic and Trifko Grabez to be arrested when they attempted to leave the country. However, his orders were not implemented and the three man arrived in Bosnia-Herzegovina where they joined forces with fellow conspirators, Muhamed Mehmedbasic, Danilo Ilic, Vaso Cubrilovic, Cvijetko Popovic, Misko Jovanovic and Veljko Cubrilovic.
Just before 10 o'clock on Sunday, 28th June, 1914, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie von Chotkovato arrived in Sarajevo by train. General Oskar Potiorek, Governor of the Austrian provinces of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was waiting to take the royal party to the City Hall for the official reception.
In the front car was Fehim Curcic, the Mayor of Sarajevo and Dr. Gerde, the city's Commissioner of Police. Franz Ferdinand and Sophie von Chotkovato were in the second car with Oskar Potiorek and Count von Harrach. The car's top was rolled back in order to allow the crowds a good view of its occupants.
The local police force were in charge of the security arrangements for the royal visit. Before the arrival of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, thirty-five potential troublemakers were arrested and taken into custody. A hundred and twenty policemen were placed along the route that the royal party was to take on its way to the City Hall but it was decided that the 70,000 Austro-Hungarian soldiers in Sarajevo were to be kept in their barracks.
Unknown to the Sarajevo police force, seven members of the Black Hand group also lined the route. They were spaced out along the Appel Quay, each one had been instructed to try and kill Franz Ferdinand when the royal car reached his position. The first conspirator on the route to see the royal car was Muhamed Mehmedbasic. Standing by the Austro-Hungarian Bank, Mehmedbasic lost his nerve and allowed the car pass without taking action. Mehmedbasic later said that a policeman was standing behind him and feared he would be arrested before he had a chance to throw his bomb.
The next man on the route was Nedjelko Cabrinovic. At 10.15. Cabrinovic stepped forward and hurled his bomb at the archduke's car. The driver accelerated when he saw the object flying towards him and the bomb exploded under the wheel of the next car. Two of the occupants, Eric von Merizzi and Count Boos-Waldeck were seriously wounded. About a dozen spectators were also hit by bomb splinters.
After throwing his bomb, Nedjelko Cabrinovic swallowed the cyanide he was carrying and jumped into the River Miljacka. Four men, including two detectives, followed him in and managed to arrest him. The poison failed to kill him and he was taken to the local police station.
Franz Ferdinand's driver, Franz Urban, drove on extremely fast and other members of the Black Hand group on the route, Cvijetko Popovic, Gavrilo Princip, Danilo Ilic and Trifko Grabez, decided that it was useless to try and kill the archduke when the car was going at this speed.
After attending the official reception at the City Hall, Franz Ferdinand asked about the members of his party that had been wounded by the bomb. When the archduke was told they were badly injured in hospital, he insisted on being taken to see them. A member of the archduke's staff, Baron Morsey, suggested this might be dangerous, but Oskar Potiorek, who was responsible for the safety of the royal party, replied, "Do you think Sarajevo is full of assassins?" However, Potiorek did accept it would be better if Duchess Sophie remained behind in the City Hall. When Baron Morsey told Sophie about the revised plans, she refused to stay arguing: "As long as the Archduke shows himself in public today I will not leave him."
In order to avoid the city centre, General Oskar Potiorek decided that the royal car should travel straight along the Appel Quay to the Sarajevo Hospital. However, Potiorek forgot to tell the driver, Franz Urban, about this decision. On the way to the hospital, Urban took a right turn into Franz Joseph Street. One of the conspirators, Gavrilo Princip, happened to be was standing on the corner at the time. Oskar Potiorek immediately realised the driver had taken the wrong route and shouted "What is this? This is the wrong way! We're supposed to take the Appel Quay!".
The driver put his foot on the brake, and began to back up. In doing so he moved slowly past the waiting Gavrilo Princip. The assassin stepped forward, drew his gun, and at a distance of about five feet, fired several times into the car. Franz Ferdinand was hit in the neck and Sophie von Chotkovato in the abdomen. Princip's bullet had pierced the archduke's jugular vein but before losing consciousness, he pleaded "Sophie dear! Sophie dear! Don't die! Stay alive for our children!" Franz Urban drove the royal couple to Konak, the governor's residence, but although both were still alive when they arrived, they died from their wounds soon afterwards.
As instructed, after shooting Franz Ferdinand and Sophie von Chotkovato, Gavrilo Princip turned his gun on himself. Ante Velic, who was standing behind him, saw what he was doing and seized Princip's right arm. Another man, Danilo Pusic, also grabbed Princip and within seconds the police arrived and he was arrested.
Nedjelko Cabrinovic and Gavrilo Princip were both interrogated by the police. They eventually gave the names of their fellow conspirators. Trifko Grabez, Danilo Ilic, Vaso Cubrilovic, Cvijetko Popovic, Misko Jovanovic and Veljko Cubrilovic were arrested but Muhamed Mehmedbasic managed to escape to Serbia.
Several members of the Black Hand group interrogated by the Austrian authorities claimed that three men from Serbia, Milan Ciganovic, Dragutin Dimitrijevic and Major Voja Tankosic, had organised the plot. 0n 23rd July, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian government demanded that the Serbian government arrested these three men and send them to face trial in Vienna.
On 25th July, 1914, Nikola Pasic, the prime minister of Serbia, told the Austro-Hungarian government that he was unable to hand over these three men as it "would be a violation of Serbia's Constitution and criminal in law". Three days later Austro-Hungarian declared war on Serbia.
Eight of the men charged with treason and the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand were found guilty. Under Austro-Hungarian law, capital punishment could not be imposed on someone who was under the age of twenty when they had committed the crime. Nedjelko Cabrinovic, Gavrilo Princip and Trifko Grabez therefore received the maximum penalty of twenty years. Vaso Cubrilovic got 16 years and Cvijetko Popovic 13 years. Misko Jovanovic, Danilo Ilic and Veljko Cubrilovic, who helped the assassins kill the royal couple, were executed on 3rd February, 1915.
All three men sent by to Sarajevo from Serbia by Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijevic, died in prison from tuberculosis: Nedjelko Cabrinovic (January, 1916), Trifko Grabez (February 1916) and Gavrilo Princip (April, 1918).
During the first two years of the First World War the Serbian Army suffered a series of military defeats. Nikola Pasic, the prime minister of Serbia, angry about the way the war was destroying his country, disbanded the Black Hand organisation and Dragutin Dimitrijevic was arrested. Dimitrijevic was found guilty of treason and executed on 11th June, 1917.