firedA brave UK holidaymaker hit the headlines back in January when he grappled a two-metre shark swimming towards children on an Australian beach has been sacked over his actions because he was on sick leave at the time.

Paul Marshallsea, from Merthyr Ryfdil, was hailed a hero in the newspapers after he pulled a shark by its tail away from busy shallow waters in Queensland.

But Paul and his wife Wendy, who were on leave over work-related stress, have been sacked from the charity they helped to create after other trustees saw the TV footage of the shark encounter.

Speaking to Wales Online, the couple said they were “gutted” to return home to find a letter of dismissal from Pant and Dowlais Boys & Girls Club waiting on the door mat.

The letter read: “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 footage appearing in newspapers and television broadcasts.

“The breakdown of the trustees’ confidence and trust in you and your ability to perform the role is so great that we find that dismissal is the only course of action we can recommend.”

Mr Marshallsea worked as a project co-ordinator at the charity, while Wendy was a senior youth worker. They had been on leave since April 2012, with the stress of running the club becoming too much.

Paul, who has met Prince Charles through his community work, said: “The stress of running this in your own community, it’s like a monster. We created a whip to hit our own backs. It grew so big and we didn’t realise. There was no stopping it.”

Mr Marshallsea said he and his wife travelled to Australia to visit friends last December after doctors advised them to go on holiday. He said they had returned invigorated and ready to go back to work.

The grandad-of-one told Wales Online: “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 tapped me on the back.

“Where do I now get a job? There’s not much call for shark-wrestlers in Merthyr Tydfil.”

Paul is now volunteering at the Hope Church Community Project in Porthcawl.