Shark wrestler hero sacked because he was on sick leave
A HOLIDAYMAKER who grappled a shark on an Australian beach has been sacked after returning home to Britain - because he was on sick leave.
The footage of Paul Marshallsea grabbing the shark's tail as it swam towards paddling children was broadcast around the world and he was hailed a hero.
But as a result he is facing a life on benefits in one of the country's worst unemployment blackspots in of Merthyr Tydfil, in the South Wales valleys.
He and his wife Wendy, who work for the same children’s charity, were on sick leave for work-related stress when they took the two month holiday in Australia.
After seeing January's footage charity trustees decided that the couple had been dishonest and sacked them.
The dismissal letter said: "Whilst unfit to work you were well enough to travel to Australia and, according to recent news footage of yourself in Queensland, you allegedly grabbed a shark by the tail and narrowly missed being bitten by quickly jumping out of the way.”
The photographs and video caused a “breakdown of the trustees' confidence and trust in you and your ability to perform” which was so great that dismissal was the only option, the letter said.
"What am I going to do now? There's not much call for shark-wrestlers in Merthyr Tydfil," the 62-year-old asked.
They found the letter, dismissing them "with immediate effect”, waiting from them when they returned from their holiday.
The father-of-three and his 56-year-old wife were given extended sick leave by the Pant and Dowlais Boys and Girls Club, where they had worked for 10 years.
The pair used the leave to visit friends in Australia and were having a barbecue on Bulcock beach when a fin was spotted in the water.
After hearing cries Mr Marshallsea ran into the waves, grabbed the 6ft-long dusky whaler shark and lead it out into deep water away from the children who were playing in the shallows.
A TV crew filming nearby captured the rescue and the images were beamed around the world, making Mr Marshallsea a national hero in Australia where lifeguards praised his bravery.
But now Mr Marshallsea, the charity's project co-ordinator, said he is disgusted that the film has been used as evidence to get him sacked.
He said: "If I hadn't gone in to save the kids on that beach that day my wife and I would still have a job.
"You think being in charge and running a children's charity, they would have patted me on the back and congratulated me.
"But to sack us both without any sort of discussions first is just disgusting."
In the past he has won awards for his charity work and met Prince Charles through his community work.
But he said the charity became so successful that he and Wendy, a senior youth worker, were working seven-days a week and "burned out" through stress.
He said the charity became “a monster” and the doctor advised the couple to go on holiday.
"I never thought for one minute that wrestling with shark would cost me my job,” added Mr Marshallsea, who is now volunteering at the Hope Church Community Project in Porthcawl.
The trustees for Pant and Dowlais Boys & Girls Club were unavailable for comment.