BBC News
Launch consoleBBC News in video and audio
Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 November 2007, 16:32 GMT
Leeches 'ruined student's health'
James Sheridan
James Sheridan left college with an MsC, but is now unemployed
A tourism student who twice had to walk barefoot in a Sri Lankan rainforest is suing a college, claiming his health was damaged by leeches.

James Sheridan, 50, said people on the field trip were made to remove their footwear because villagers considered the Unesco world heritage sites sacred.

He is claiming damages and compensation at Neath County Court from Swansea Institute over the 2001 trip.

The college is fighting his claim. The case continues.

Mr Sheridan told the court he and other students on the trip were covered in the black leeches after the treks in the Sinharaja rainforest during the week-long visit to Kandy, in the island's hill country.

The students were taken on two treks - one taking 45 minutes along a forest track via a waterfall to the Buddhist temple and another of 20 minutes on a stone path to a shrine.

"One of the girls was screaming after finding them on her leg," he said.

When he got back from the trip he could hardly move and lay on our settee for three weeks
Wendy Sheridan, claimant's wife

The court heard claims that Mr Sheridan, of Townhill, Swansea, was so weak after returning home that he could "only eat corned beef and lettuce for months".

Mr Sheridan claimed he had suffered from malaria-like feverishness, sleeplessness, excessive sweating and lethargy in the six years since the trip, paid for with European funding as part of a tourism and leisure management MSc degree course.

He enrolled at the college as a mature student after working for Tesco and left with an MSc, but is now unemployed.

'Tiredness and depression'

He said: "I haven't been able to get a proper job since because of the health problems I have suffered since the trip.

"It has affected my life very seriously since then and it has made it very difficult for me to find work."

His wife Wendy said: "When he got back from the trip he could hardly move and lay on our settee for three weeks.

"He was sweating profusely and was very feverish. He just lay like a little boy on the settee.

"I was terrified that he had contracted malaria. He has suffered for at least a couple of years afterwards from lethargy, tiredness and depression.

"My life was hell on earth living with him afterwards."

Swansea Institute senior lecturer Andrew Jones denied claims that students would not be awarded their MSc degree if they refused to go on the walks.

He said the only query that Mr Sheridan came up with before the trip was the possibility that it would clash with a holiday in Sorrento with his wife.

He said: "The whole package trip was funded by a grant with the students chipping in 65 to cover their share of the cost."

The case is continuing.

College cancels 'surfing' degree
06 Oct 04 |  Education
Country profile: Sri Lanka
03 Aug 07 |  Country profiles

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific