Watch: Doctor Strange actress Zara Phythian jailed for eight years over child sex offences
A Hollywood actress who sexually abused a young girl with her husband has been jailed for eight years.
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.
He was jailed on Monday for 14 years at Nottingham Crown Court.
Passing sentence, Judge Mark Watson told the couple that he believed the start of the sexual abuse of the joint victim had been pre-planned.
The judge told Marke: “I regard you as the driving force behind the abuse. You were clearly aware of the first incident but pretended to be asleep.
“This could only have been a ruse agreed in advance.”
She was abused at least 20 times as the offences continued until she was 16.
During the sentencing, the judge also said that Phythian’s “deviance” was shaped by the influence that Marke had on her from an early age.
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.
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 “bulls**t”.
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.”