A man who was hailed a hero after grappling with a shark in Australia has been sacked after it emerged he was on long-term sick leave with stress.

Paul Marshallsea, 62, waded in to the surf and grabbed the 6ft shark by the tail amid fears it would attack paddling children.

The charity worker, from Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, claims he risked his life at the beach outside Brisbane in January.

A local news crew caught his exploits on camera and his story made headlines around the world and earned him praise from lifeguards.

But now Mr Marshallsea has lost his job with children's charity the Pant and Dowlais Boys & Girls Club, because he had been signed off with work-related stress since last April.

The grandfather-of-one and his wife Wendy, 56, who also worked for the charity and was off ill at the time, flew back to Britain to letters informing them they had been sacked.

He has now hit back saying he was "disgusted" by the way he has been treated. He said: "What am I going to do now? There's not much call for shark wrestlers in Merthyr Tydfil."

Mr Marshallsea claims that he should have received a pat on the back for his efforts and that he only took the holiday with his wife on the advice of his GP.

"If I hadn't gone in to save the kids on that beach that day my wife and I would still have a job," he told WalesOnline.

Mr Marshallsea worked as project co-ordinator at Dowlais Engine House, where the charity has a base, and his wife was a senior youth worker.

He had beenfeatured on Sky News for his work with the charity and once met Prince Charles, who visited to find out about the project's work in the town.

The letter he received 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."

A follow-up letter added: "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 said running the club became increasingly stressful as it gained in success and the couple were working up to seven days a week.

"We created a whip to hit our own backs. It grew so big and we didn't realise. There was no stopping it."