The true story behind the viral photo of an abandoned leg

We spoke to the man who took the picture


Last week, like all the other weeks, a picture went viral. It was a photo of a prosthetic leg that had allegedly been abandoned outside a pub in Doncaster. It looked like this:

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Photo: Arran Goodchild

National news outlets started sharing the picture and writing articles about it, and claiming that the leg was from Doncaster.

But that’s not the case. As Buzzfeed News has reported, the leg was actually left outside the Horse & Groom pub in Streatham, South London. The photo was taken by Arran Goodchild, and it was taken last September. I spoke to him about the true story behind that lonely prosthetic limb.

There’s been a huge amount of confusion around the photo. Could you start by telling the real origins of it? 

I’d just played a gig at the Windmill [check out Arran’s band Bridport Dagger here] and everywhere was closed, apart from a Mexican restaurant in Streatham, which I went to with my girlfriend. We left and we walked past the Horse & Groom pub and there was this leg there. It was on the street, next to a pint and a small amount of vomit.

What time was it? 

Pretty late, the Mexican is always open late and it had shut, so it was probably around 12, half 12.

So you decided to take a photo of the leg.

Yeah, people were walking past it and laughing – that’s when I took the photos.

Photo: Arran Goodchild

Photo: Arran Goodchild

Photo: Arran Goodchild

Photo: Arran Goodchild

I showed the photos to my mates and they thought they were hilarious. I ended up putting the photo on the Shit London Facebook group. It ended up getting about 2000 likes.  Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 11.52.08

It all sort of spiralled out of control from there. There are just so many puns to be made with that photo – “you’re legless” – and so on, that it proved incredibly popular. It generated conversation.

This was in January and then I heard nothing for a long time. A couple of days ago it was posted again, this time in Yorkshire. I think it had something to do with squaddies finding it quite funny. The photo did the round in army networks.

I was sitting at work and I started to get loads and loads of messages, people saying it was all over the internet again, on all kinds of different sites. People were actually getting quite angry on my behalf, saying I should have been credited. I felt like my friends were going to form a militia or something!

I actually started to feel a bit hard done by at this point. A slightly tampered-with version of the photo, which made it look more generic than Streatham, was going even more viral than my photo. It was in the Mail, on ITV’s website and in some papers in Australia.

And it was Buzzfeed who showed that the other pic was a fraud, wasn’t it?

Yeah, they showed the difference between the two photos using Google Earth. Eventually all these media outlets were arguing over the photo, and I was just sat at work, really struggling to concentrate.

Where did the idea that it was a soldier’s leg even come from?

Well, I can only assume that it spread so much amongst the squaddie population that, somehow or other it came to be taken as gospel. It’s mad how your image can spread and become something telling a completely different story to the truth.

How old is the photo anyway?

The photo was taken five months ago and it’s only blown up now. My friends kept telling to put it on the internet and that’s how it ended up on Shit London. The way it’s become big this week really surprised me.

Did you ever find out whose leg it was? 

Nah, it was such a surreal thing to see. I saw it there and it literally looked like it was set up. Just outside a pub with a beer and some vomit next to it.

They really ought to have that picture framed behind the bar in that place. 

Yeah, they should definitely own it. The Horse & Groom has popped up a few times in all the coverage. I asked the barman there if they knew whose leg it was but they didn’t. The brewery has been in contact with them about it though.

They should change their name to the Spare Leg. What was it about the photo that made it go off like a firework?

Well, for me it’s incredibly surreal, first off. The second thing about it is that everyone looks at it and wants to say the funniest thing they can about it. The puns are horrific.

Why did the whole media storm make you angry? 

I was quite annoyed. I called the Mail up and asked them why the picture appeared there under the banner of a company called Ross Perry – it made me think, oh shit, is someone making money off my photo.

Were they making money off it? 

Yeah Ross Perry have. I gave them my bank details and it’s been left at that for now.

You are going to get some money though? It is your picture after all. 

I hope so. I realise it’s not a huge amount of money but it would be nice to be remunerated. The fact that the press didn’t really check it – especially the Mail and ITV – did surprise me.