A Wigan dad said he “lost everything” when he was fired by supermarket bosses for apprehending a shoplifter.
Mark Hayes, from Ashton, is urging others to speak out against multi-million pound retailers Tesco after learning of another employee who took his own life after being sacked for the same thing.
The 41-year-old contacted the Wigan Post after reading about Shaun Winstanley, a 49-year-old from Blackpool, who died just weeks after being fired from his job on the grounds of “unreasonable behaviour” after chasing a shoplifter from the store.
Mark, a dad-of-one, was let go after 12 years, in April 2017, when “took down” a man caught standing over a security guard with two bottles of wine in his hand.
Quick-thinking Mark, who was working as a senior night manager at the time, tackled the thief, who he believed was threatening the employee - who was lying on the floor.
The Ashton Town Football Club chairman, who volunteers as a charity trustee in his own time, thought that he had done the right thing as the man was a threat to the public and other members of staff.
It was only the next day he discovered that his company had other ideas.
“I had to make a quick judgement of what had gone on,” said Mark. “My reaction was to take him down for the safety of the customers and to get justice.
“I knew he had tried to run out of the store and the security guard was lying on the floor. All I saw was that and I knew I had to stop him doing anything else.
“He had two heavy objects in his hands.
“I took him down and in the melee he hit his head on a newspaper rack. He was fine but there was a bit of blood.
“I led him away from the entrance and rang police to say that we had caught a thief.
“He was a known thief and a couple of weeks prior he had nicked some televisions.
“I definitely didn’t think I had done anything wrong.
“When the police turned up they reviewed the CCTV footage to make sure everything was as I had said and at the end the officer shook my hand, said well done and that it was a brave thing to do.
“I thought nothing of it, I didn’t expect any praise but I did think I might get a pat on the back for stopping anything happen.”
Mark left work following the incident and enjoyed his weekend but was startled to receive messages from both the security guard and shift manager the following evening to say they had been suspended.
He was also suspended when he arrived for his next shift.
“I didn’t understand,” said Mark. “The police shook my hand, I had apprehended a thief.
“The security guard got a warning, he was told he shouldn’t have approached a “customer” in the way he did.
“We were told that if a “customer” is taking a product, you can’t physically stop them, you have to ask politely and if they refuse to give it back you have to let them go. I had never been taught this in my training.
“In the Hindley store the investigations room is really far from the entrance, no thief is going to go hand in hand there to wait for the police.”
On returning to work, Mark was given a disciplinary to answer to what he had done.
“The whole meeting was a complete blur,” he said. “They kept insisting that I had done something to a customer and talking about how I had dealt with a customer.
“The man was a thief, I had stopped someone from potentially getting assaulted with a wine bottle as well.”
The devastated dad was asked to leave his job with immediate effect leaving him, as the sole breadwinner, unemployed and with no grace period to find something new.
When he returned home from his meeting Mark discovered that his partner, Adele Whitley, was pregnant.
The next few months saw Mark’s life spiralling out of control.
He lost his house for failing to make mortgage payments and he also lost his car.
A few weeks after he was fired the couple also found out that they had lost their baby, after Adele suffered a miscarriage.
“I couldn’t get out of the house,” said Mark. “I’m a really positive guy usually but I felt the whole world was against me.
“I felt like all the good I had done in my life was pointless. Literally everything I had was gone.
“Not long before this I had been down to the Tower of London to receive an award from Marie Curie for holding the best charity event in Tesco across the country.
“So to go from that to being out of work, with no money and no idea what to do when I hadn’t done anything wrong, it was so difficult.
“I really struggled, I got referred for counselling.
“I went to the job centre to try and get something and all they offered me was unpaid work experience at a chicken shop.
“I could have been like that poor man who felt he had no other option.”
During his period of unemployment, Mark threw himself into his work with Wigan charity Joseph’s Goal.
“It was my main focus,” he said. “It really took my mind off it.
“I was organising one of the Legends matches at the time.
“I remember I spent the last bit of money I had on a rental car to pick up the players because mine was so bad and I couldn’t fix it.”
Around this time, Mark had a sudden epiphany and started to apply for every job he could find.
He said: “I had always wanted to run a pub in Manchester and amazingly I got a job at Picadilly train station running the pub there.
“It gave me back my zest for life. I loved life again running pubs.”
After building back his confidence, Mark applied to run The Gerard Arms in St Helens, where he now lives with his partner and 19-year-old son Andrew.
“I got to a point where I had lost everything,” he said. “I have spent the past couple of years rebuilding my life.
“For months I wasn’t really living I was just an act and it was all down to this.
“I am never defeated but I was pushed pretty close.
“My hope now is by me opening up, others will also come forward. I am the proof that you can come back from the bottom, unlike what happened to Shaun.
“I was never told not to chase a thief. If I had been I wouldn’t have done it. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it again.”
Tesco have been contacted for comment.