Mansfield-based Hollywood actress and her martial artist husband jailed for abusing teenage girls
Zara Phythian, who starred Benedict Cumberbatch in the Marvel film Doctor Strange, knocked the teenager out with rum before making her perform a sex act on her partner.
The 36-year-old and Victor Marke allegedly abused the girl “once or twice a month” at their home for a three-year period from 2005.
The court heard the abuse began after Phythian gave the victim alcohol and asked if she wanted to ‘play dare’ with her husband.
Martial arts and taekwondo “master” Marke, 59, then had sex with the schoolgirl about 20 times on different occasions.
The victim, who cannot be named, described the couple as characters from ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ and said Marke threatened her, ordering her to film the abuse.
The couple – both from Mansfield – were found guilty of 14 counts of sexual activity, while Marke was found guilty of four other counts of indecent assault on another teenager.
Today (Monday May 16) Phythian was jailed for eight years while Marke was caged for 14 years at Nottingham Crown Court.
After her sentencing, members of Phythian’s family shouted “we love you Zara,” to which she replied, “I’m innocent, I love you all.
Earlier, Marke could be heard sobbing uncontrollably as he arrived in the courtroom to hear his fate.
At sentencing, Judge Mark Watson said: “It has been said that you both come across as impressive individuals, each with a long list of accomplishments.
“You, Victor Marke, were someone your students admired. You Zara Marke were also someone who was admired by those you taught.
“Most people have held you in high esteem. That’s why you were able to groom the victims in this case and get away with it for so long.
“You looked after her and there was a significant disparity in your ages.
“You both exposed her to sex acts. You showed her how much you liked it and she described it as a ‘very advanced, dirty, mean side’.
“She said ‘God, I’ve done it all and I’m not even 16 yet.’
“At the time, she was already vulnerable, in the sense that she was young and hadn’t gone through puberty.
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“Much of the sexual behavior was recorded on video.
“Victor Marke, I describe you as the driving force behind the abuse. The sexual act that took place would end when you satisfied your needs.
“You were also the older part and held a higher status in the world of martial arts.
“You and Zara Marke were immersed in this regime, everyone was all too aware of the pecking order – you were on top.
“Each of you shares responsibility. Your offense involved multiple types of sexual acts and, more importantly, you committed the offense together.
“I am dealing with you two for a delinquency which lasted three years. I take into account your good character but that can have a limiting value.
“There will be no chance for either of you to see the other, which will cause some distress.”
Speaking to Phythian, the judge said: “The sentence in your case will be shorter.
“There was a casualty and you were younger at the time and I don’t see you as the driving force behind this.
“You were in love with Victor Marke. I have no doubt that your deviance was shaped by him.
“You had been the center of his attention. Your relationship began when you were young.
“None of that excuses what you did, you may have done them to suit Victor Marke’s whims, but you still chose to play your part.”
Jurors heard how the teenager regularly stayed with the couple at their home when the abuse began.
She told police how she was given rum before Zara – also a martial arts expert – asked her if she wanted to play ‘challenges’.
The actress then began to perform a sexual act on her husband before asking the victim to do the same.
The girl claimed he then “took turns” having sex with the two of them.
She told officers the abuse continued until she was 18 and included Victor asking her to save him and Zara.
The girl said he also filmed the abuse, telling the court it was an attempt to recreate the pornography the couple watched.
Testifying, the victim told the jury, “I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t know how to get out of the situation or say anything.
“I just did what they asked me to do. They made it look like I was a naughty kid and they were helping me.
“I just felt like there was no way out. They told me not to say anything.”
The court was told that Victor had used his position of trust to ‘satisfy his sexual urges’ alongside his wife.
She has been described as a “major personality” who “is experiencing unprecedented personal and professional success” following her role in the Marvel film Doctor Strange.
Ahmed Hossain QC, prosecuting, said: “These two defendants command admiration and respect in the world of martial arts.
“Victor Marke cared for these two estranged complainants as children and used his position of trust and authority to make them feel special so he could satisfy his sexual urges.”
The court was told that Zara, who uses the stage name Phythian, called the allegations “bulls**t” when questioned by police.
She said, “They [the claims] are false. She lied to me the whole time I knew her.
“I am neither a pedophile nor a rapist. Vic either.
She revealed in police interviews that her husband claimed he only had “consensual” sex with the girl after she turned 18.
The actress said she felt “confused” and “wish she had known”.
She also admitted to owning a ‘collection’ of sex toys during questioning after the victim claimed the aids were used on her.