May 2022

Actress Zara Phythian and husband jailed for child sex offences

A film actress who starred in Marvel blockbuster Doctor Strange and her martial arts instructor husband have been jailed for child sex offences.

Zara Phythian – who appeared in Doctor Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch – sexually abused a 13-year-old girl together with her husband Victor Marke.

Marke also sexually abused a 15-year-old girl on his own.

At Nottingham Crown Court, Phythian, who is 37, was jailed for eight years while her husband, 59, was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Judge Mark Watson said Marke was the “driving force behind the abuse”.

Addressing Phythian, the judge added: “Whilst you denied in cross-examination that you were besotted with Victor Marke, on the evidence I have heard I am in no doubt that your deviance was shaped by the influence that he had upon you from an early age.”

The court heard the couple met when he was her martial arts instructor, and Phythian went on to have a successful career in martial arts, as a stuntwoman, and actress.

Marke, from Mavis Avenue, Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire, was charged with four counts of indecently assaulting a child between 2002 and 2003.

The pair were jointly charged with 14 counts of sexual activity with a child between 2005 and 2008.

They both denied the offences but were found guilty by a jury and sentenced at the same court on Monday.

Marke was sentenced to four years for abusing the girl on his own and a further 10 years for the abuse of the second victim with Phythian, from Taurus Close, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.

Phythian – who was tried under her married name of Zara Marke – was jailed for eight years for her part in the abuse of the second victim.

The first victim told the court that what Marke did to her “nearly broke my mum”.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, the second victim thanked the first woman for telling the police.

She added she had been a “cheeky and socially awkward” 13-year-old who was an easy target for the pair.

“You robbed me of my innocence, corrupted me… leaving me unable to create good and balanced relationships,” she said.

The victim said the couple had abused her once or twice a month from 2005, and said Marke had sex with her on at least 20 occasions.

As she was led away to the cells, Phythian waved at the public gallery where a woman shouted: “I love you, Zara.”

Phythian, who met her future husband when she was aged 14 and he was 37, began her film career after being spotted at a martial arts competition in the United States.

In 2016 she landed the role of Brunette Zealot in Doctor Strange and she was described as enjoying “unprecedented personal and professional success”.

May 2022

Doctor Strange actress and husband convicted of child sex abuse charges

An actress and her husband from Nottinghamshire have been found guilty of a string of child sexual offence charges after jointly grooming and abusing a schoolgirl multiple times

Zara Phythian, who featured in the 2016 Marvel movie Doctor Strange, and also runs a martial arts academy, was found guilty at Nottingham Crown Court of 14 counts of sexual activity with a child aged 13-15 committed between 2005 and 2008.

Jurors also convicted the 37-year-old’s husband, Victor Marke, 59, of the same 14 offences and indecent assault charges relating to another under-age girl he abused on at least eight occasions between 2002 and 2003.

Phythian, from Mansfield, denied being a paedophile during her two-week trial, while her husband, who is also a martial arts instructor, broke down in the witness box.

Jurors were told the abuse of the couple’s joint victim began when Phythian, then in her early 20s, asked her, “Do you want to play dare?” and invited her to copy a sex act she had performed on Marke.

The victim, who cannot be named, told the court that Marke made threats against her and ordered her to film some of the abuse at the hands of the “Jekyll and Hyde” couple.

Phythian denied having any sexual contact with the victim, who was able to describe a Chinese calligraphy tattoo the actress has near her private parts.

The victim, who came forward after a separate complaint in 2016, described how Marke pretended to be asleep before joining in what she believed was pre-planned abuse alongside Phythian.

She was abused at least 20 times as the offences continued until she was 16.

Jurors unanimously convicted the couple after deliberating over two days.

They also convicted Marke of four counts of indecent assault relating to a girl he abused when she was 15.

In police interviews after the couple’s arrest in 2017, Phythian, who stood trial under her married name of Marke, told officers the allegations against her were “bullshit”.

During four interviews about the claims against her, she also suggested her victim, now an adult, may have seen her intimate tattoo when she was in a changing room.

In her evidence to the court, Phythian described how she was given a chance to star in films after being “spotted” at a martial arts contest in the United States.

She told jurors that she runs a production company, has her own sports clothing brand and had formed a relationship with Marke when she was 19.

Phythian’s film career peaked in 2016, the court heard, when she auditioned for and got the part of “brunette zealot” in Doctor Strange, which starred Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role.

Marke, of Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire, denied that he was attracted to girls aged in their early teens.

He repeatedly broke down in the witness box as he denied touching one victim sexually, and said the other complainant had given him oral sex when he was drunk and she had turned 18.

He told the jury: “There were no excuses. I have apologised to my wife.”

He also rejected prosecution claims that he and Phythian had “encouraged threesomes” when their victim was 13, 14 and 15, telling the jury: “It’s not the reality at all.”

Following the verdicts on Wednesday, Judge Mark Watson remanded both defendants in custody until next Monday, telling them their sentence would be “likely to be measured by a considerable period of custody”.