Charity founder who moved shark away from children while on sick leave is sacked

A dusky whaler shark

A dusky whaler shark

Pant and Dowlais Boys and Girls Club fired Paul Marshallsea and his wife, Wendy, after Paul was filmed in Queensland moving a shark away from children

A man who was caught on film pulling a 6ft-long shark away from a group of children on a beach in Australia has been sacked by the Welsh charity he founded.

Paul Marshallsea gained national recognition in January when he and another man were filmed grabbing a dusky whaler shark by its tail to move it into deeper water just off Bulcock Beach in Queensland.

Marshallsea and his wife Wendy were in Australia for a trip they had taken while they were both on sick leave from the Pant and Dowlais Boys and Girls Club, which provides sports and leisure facilities for children and young people in Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales.

Marshallsea told Third Sector that he set up the charity, which was registered in 2003, after his own son became a drug addict – but the day-to-day management of the charity and the renovation of its premises took a toll on both him and his wife, and they both took sick leave for stress in April 2012.

“We lived there, me and my wife; it got so big that we were getting between 160 and 200 kids a night,” said Marshallsea. “You can imagine the stress, working seven days a week and then getting home and spending all night working on the charity.”

In December, while still on sick leave, the couple travelled to Australia to stay with friends for two months, at the recommendation of Wendy’s GP.

“Of course, I’m on the beach one day and there’s a scream: ‘Shark! Help!’ I go over and there it is. It’s a beautiful specimen, in the shallow area of the beach where parents are dropping their kids in.”

Marshallsea said he narrowly missed being bitten by the shark after the two men successfully returned it to deeper water.

On their return to the UK, said Marshallsea, he and his wife received notice from Pant and Dowlais Boys and Girls Club trustees that they had been dismissed. The charity said that it had seen the reports of Marshallsea’s encounter with the shark in the media, he said.

“We got home ready to start work only to find a letter there saying I’ve been sacked,” he said. “It said that if I was well enough to be on a beach, I was well enough to be at work.”

A spokeswoman for the club said that it could not make a detailed comment on the Marshallseas’ dismissals for legal reasons. But she said the trustees had been dealing with a “range of issues” with Paul Marshallsea.

Marshallsea said that since he’d been dismissed from the charity he had been working as a fundraiser for the Hope Church Community Project in Porthcawl, south Wales.

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