Zara Pythian: who is Doctor Strange actress, child sex offences explained, and what is her prison sentence?
The couple were found guilty of 14 counts of sexual activity with a child by jurors
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Doctor Strange star Zara Phythian and her husband Victor Marke have been sentenced to a combined time of 22 years in jail for child sex offences.
Prior to their conviction, the court heard the police interview with the woman making the allegations, who said that the couple abused her from the ages of 13 to 15 over the course of 2005 to 2008.
This is what you need to know.
Who is Zara Phythian?
Phythian is a British actress, stunt performer and professional martial artist - she is a former 13 time Multi Style World Sports Martial Art Champion. In 2009, she set a Guinness World Record for most items kicked off a person’s head in just one minute.
She is also an inductee into the International Karate and Kickboxing Hall of Fame.
After competing in and winning four US National Belt Titles at an event in America, she was spotted and hired as an actress for an independent science fiction film. From there, Phythian retired from the international circuit to pursue a career on screen.
Phythian appeared as Brunette Zealot in the 2016 film Doctor Strange, which starred the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, The Power of the Dog), Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Young Adam) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dancing on the Edge, The Man Who Fell to Earth).
She has also appeared in other roles, including Tribal Get Out Alive, Transit 17, Dragon Kingdom, Outlawed, Furor: Rage of the Innocent and Crops.
Phythian is also listed as being a stunt double in 2012 film Alien Uprising and Curfew,and as stunt coordinator for Macbeth, Landlord: Time to Pay the Rent, Cannibals and Carpet Fitters and Veneer.
According to her IMDb, Phythian is currently in the process of filming TV show Martial Art Roadshow in which she is billed as a presenter. She also appears to be shooting a film called Unit 19 as well. Two of her other projects, Argh and Accident Man 2, are listed as being in post-production.
Who is husband Victor Marke?
Less is known about Marke. He is also a professional martial artist and Taekwondo coach who has performed some stunts in movies.
On IMDb he is credited as producer, director and writer of Furor: Rage of the Innocent and editor and action director of Landlord: Time to Pay the Rent.
It’s unknown when Marke and Phythian got married or whether they have children together.
What were they accused of?
The couple were accused of 14 joint charges of sexual activity with a child, including having sex with a 13-year-old girl after allegedly grooming her.
In an interview with police that was played in Nottingham Crown Court, the woman said that the abuse took place between 2005 and 2008, when she was between 13 and 15 years old.
At the time, Phythian would have been between 20 and 21 when the alleged abuse first began, and Marke would have been 42 or 43.
The court heard how the couple, who weren’t married at the time, were both martial arts instructors and that the woman looked up to Phythian. She said that the first offences occurred after Phythian and Marke gave her alcohol.
Phythian allegedly dared the woman to give Marke oral sex and then had sex with both of them.
She was quoted by the BBC as saying: “I knew it was wrong but I just didn’t know how to get out of the situation or say anything.
“I remember copying Zara’s reaction at the time because I looked up to her and tried to be like her in every way.”
According to the Nottinghamshire Live, the woman said that she felt as if she was being “coached” by Phythian and estimated that Marke had sex with her on 20 different occasions.
As the alleged abuse continued, the woman said that Marke had threatened to smash her kneecaps if she told anyone about what was going on.
She told police: “He just said nobody would believe me if I told them anyway.
“They always had a power over me.”
Marke was also accused of an additional four charges of indecently assaulting a child in regards to another woman who has gone to the police.
The court heard that Marke allegedly abused this other woman when she was 15, between 2002 and 2003. At the time, Marke had been married to another woman called Juliet.
When his relationship with his first wife broke down, Marke went on to have an affair with Phythian when she too was just a teenager.
Phythian, 36, and Marke, 59, denied all the offences.
Have they been convicted?
Phythian 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, 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 broke down in the witness box. She denied having any sexual contact with the victim, who was able to describe a Chinese calligraphy tattoo the actress has near her private parts.
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.
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”.
What were they sentenced to?
Phythian has been jailed for eight years, with Marke handed a 14-year sentence after additionally being found guilty of indecently assaulting a second complainant at Nottingham Crown Court.
Phythian and her husband Marke were found guilty last week of 14 counts of sexual activity with a child after jointly grooming and abusing the girl between 2005 and 2008.
Passing sentence, Judge Mark Watson told the couple he believed the start of the abuse was 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.”
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.
“I cannot ignore that it started at a time when you were still young.”
But the judge added: “Having said that, none of this excuses what you did – these were choices you made.
“You were by then successful in your own right. You chose to play your part.”
As she was led away to the cells, Phythian waved at the public gallery, where a woman shouted: “I love you, Zara.”
The 37-year-old, from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, and Marke, 59, were told they will have to serve at least half their sentences before being considered for parole.
The judge said Marke, who was found guilty of four indecent assault charges relating to another under-age girl he abused at least eight times between 2002 and 2003, had shown a “high level of depravity” during the offences.