The moment a student urinated on a Sheffield war monument

OUTRAGED war veterans today reacted with despair after a drunken Sheffield student was photographed urinating on poppy wreaths at the city's war memorial in Barker's Pool.

Philip Laing, aged 19, was caught on camera desecrating the monument during a boozy students' pub crawl, and was later seen collapsing in the gutter laughing.

The Sheffield Hallam University technology student, who was at the end of an all-night drinking binge, has been arrested and charged with outraging public decency after being photographed urinating over a war memorial.

Laing has been released on bail and will appear at Sheffield Magistrates Court on Thursday October 22.

A university spokeswoman said Laing's tutors had been made aware of the image, and were investigating whether he had committed a breach of discipline by bringing the university into disrepute.

Today, city war veterans said they were both shocked and upset by the photo.

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Bert Cooper, aged 84, president of the Sheffield branch of the Normandy Veterans' Association, said he was "disgusted".

He was a foot soldier in the first assault of ground troops on D-Day when he was 19, and witnessed his pal blown in two at his side as they struggled up the shore of Gold beach.

Bert, from Greystones, said: "It is a crime. It's as though young men today have no conception of what's been done for them.

"I think they would be a lot different if they had two years of soldiering to do. It not only made a man of you but it taught you discipline - something that's a distant thing today."

Ken Riley, also 84, of Burngreave, is the official standard-bearer for the same association, and was fighting through Europe as a World War Two radio operator when he was 19.

"This character must be the lowest of the low, especially when lads his own age are fighting and dying for this country over in Afghanistan," he said.

"They should send him to Afghanistan - that would soon sort him out. Even if he was blind drunk I can't understand it.

"When I was his age, I was in Belgium getting ready to press on into Holland, having fought through France where I was injured by shellfire."

And Royal Navy veteran Vince McDonagh, 71, of Swallownest, secretary of the Joint Council of Sheffield Veterans, added: "I think it's quite disgusting. I think it's an example of the sick attitude of some sections of society today."

Frazer Snowdon, committee member at Stannington Royal British Legion, added: "It's despicable. People like Laing supposedly come to university to better themselves.

"They are the same age as other young people serving on the front line and being killed in Afghanistan. What he has done shows a total lack of respect."

David Ogle, 43, of Burncross, whose great grandfather Bob Hogan is named on the memorial said: "I am absolutely outraged and disgusted at this.

"I am all for students having a good time in Sheffield - I was one myself - but this is disgusting and I seriously think the university should kick him off the course - he has no place here if this is how he behaves.

"He obviously has no respect for what these great men did for our country, and with all the soldiers to have died in recent times, his behaviour is an insult."

Laing himself apologised "unreservedly" for his actions and said: "I am deeply ashamed of this photograph and sincerely sorry for my behaviour.

"I didn't realise how much alcohol I had consumed that night and I also hadn't eaten since lunchtime, which worsened the effect.

"I have no recollection of the events in the photograph, although I recognise this does not excuse my actions."

Superintendent Peter Norman, from South Yorkshire Police, said: "The behaviour portrayed in this photograph is disgraceful and will not be tolerated.

"As soon as it was brought to police attention, officers began the process of tracing him so that he can be put before the Magistrates' Court.

"South Yorkshire Police work closely with the organisers of this and other events to ensure students who are new to Sheffield fully understand that drunken and anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated.

"Similar student events are a regular occurrence in Sheffield and are usually very well-run and well-organised by the Students' Union and the event organisers. Incidents of this nature are a very rare occurrence.

"Unfortunately, on this occasion, one individual has brought shame upon himself and damaged the reputation of the event and the organisers.

"Alcohol when taken in large quantities can temporarily and substantially alter the behaviour of some young people."

The undergraduate was part of a massive pub crawl put on by a firm of party organisers called 'Carnage UK'. The organisation has come in for heavy criticism in recent years for encouraging students to join booze binges at cities all over the UK.

Organisers provide revellers with souvenir T-shirts and exclusive entry into a series of nightspots for knockdown prices.

Paul Bahia, founder of Varsity Leisure Group, which runs the Carnage UK events, has previously denied the event promoted binge drinking.

He said: "We are not irresponsible or promoting binge drinking. Our events are heavily focused on group identity and social and ethnic cohesion."


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