‘Doctor Strange’ star and martial arts coach husband arrive at court to face 14 child sex charges

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Doctor Strange star Zara Phythian ‘dared’ a 13-year-old girl to perform sex act on her martial arts coach husband – then told her ‘not to tell anyone’, a court has heard.

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The Hollywood actress, 36, from Mansfield, who starred in the Marvel blockbuster with Benedict Cumberbatch, was back at Nottingham Crown Court with spouse Victor Marke, 59, today for the third day of their trial, in which they face 14 child sex charges.

Prosecutors claim the pair, both martial arts experts, regularly assaulted the teenager between 2005 and 2008 at their home – with Victor sometimes filming the incidents in an ‘attempt to recreate pornographic scenes’.

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Jurors at Nottingham Crown Court have been told the alleged abuse began after the Markes plied the girl with rum, before Zara, 36, ‘dared’ her to perform a sex act on Victor.

The assaults are said to have progressed to including full sexual intercourse, with activity taking place ‘once or twice a month’, and the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, being ordered ‘not to tell anyone’.

Hollywood actress Zara Phythian, 36, from Mansfield, who starred in the Marvel blockbuster with Benedict Cumberbatch , walked into Nottingham Crown Court with spouse Victor Marke, 59, for the third day of their trial

Hollywood actress Zara Phythian, 36, from Mansfield, who starred in the Marvel blockbuster with Benedict Cumberbatch , walked into Nottingham Crown Court with spouse Victor Marke, 59, for the third day of their trial

A jury heard yesterday how the couple vowed to burn their alleged victim's belongings when she said she no longer wanted to see the couple

A jury heard yesterday how the couple vowed to burn their alleged victim’s belongings when she said she no longer wanted to see the couple

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British actress Zara Phythian, right, who starred in Doctor Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch, left. She is now on trial for child sex offences with her

British actress Zara Phythian, right, who starred in Doctor Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch, left. She is now on trial for child sex offences with her 

Yesterday, their alleged victim tearfully told the trial how she finally revealed what she described as her ‘darkest secret’ years later when a police officer knocked on her mum’s door to say another girl had claimed Marke had abused her, and asked ‘if she knew anything’.

At that time, the court has heard how Taekwondo black belt Zara was enjoying ‘unprecedented personal and professional success’ thanks to her acting career, including the role of ‘Brunette Zealot’ in Doctor Strange.

Speaking from behind a screen, the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said she ‘would never have come forward’ and planned to ‘die with my shame’ – but had recently become a mother herself, and felt she had ‘no option to speak my truth’ in a bid to stop anyone else being targeted in the same way she claimed to have been.

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‘That was my deepest, darkest secret. I thought that if I was to say anything, then my family would hate me. At that time I really hated my mum. I got stuck because I had this secret and I could not tell her.’

In an earlier videotaped interview played to the jury that the alleged victim gave to police, she told how the Markes ‘preyed’ upon her.

She said: ‘They saw the vulnerability in me and preyed on that, and saw my mum was struggling, and took advantage of that. I found it quite hard and they kind of instructed me through all of it (the sexual activity).’

Referring to the alleged filming of the incidents, she added: ‘All I can remember is he used to record.

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‘I don’t know what he did with them. I never saw them again. I did not want to see them. I was ashamed. It was a power they had over me.

‘I never knew how to get out of that situation. I could not see a way out.’

Zara Phythian (pictured) is said to have shown the alleged victim how to perform a sex act on her husband

Zara Phythian (pictured) is said to have shown the alleged victim how to perform a sex act on her husband

Zara Phythian (pictured) is said to have shown the alleged victim how to perform a sex act on her husband, and then ‘dared’ her to do it, the court heard

Jurors were told that on the first occasion the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was plied with rum at the couple's home before being 'dared' by Zara, 36, to perform a sex act on Victor after showing her how

Jurors were told that on the first occasion the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was plied with rum at the couple’s home before being ‘dared’ by Zara, 36, to perform a sex act on Victor after showing her how

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In an earlier videotaped interview played to the jury that the alleged victim gave to police, she told how the Markes 'preyed' upon her

In an earlier videotaped interview played to the jury that the alleged victim gave to police, she told how the Markes ‘preyed’ upon her

James Varley QC, defending Zara, also said that the actress had been offered a role performing with Britain's Got Talent winners Diversity on their UK dance tour in 2010 - but was forced to turn it down because she was 'defending a (martial arts) world title in India'

James Varley QC, defending Zara, also said that the actress had been offered a role performing with Britain’s Got Talent winners Diversity on their UK dance tour in 2010 – but was forced to turn it down because she was ‘defending a (martial arts) world title in India’

The alleged victim went on to claim the Markes had ‘made me leave college six months in’, adding: ‘They really ruined my education in a sense’.

The court has previously heard Victor’s marriage broke down around 2005 after he had an affair with Zara, who was herself a teenager at the time.

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He is also charged with four further allegations, all denied, of indecent assault on another teenage girl between 2002 and 2003.

Nottingham Crown Court heard that alongside Phythian’s acting career, the couple were sports coaches who ‘commanded admiration and respect within the martial arts world’. 

But prosecutor Ahmed Hossain QC said Marke, a taekwondo ‘master’, used his position of trust to ‘satisfy his sexual urges’ in targeting the girl – with his wife acting ‘as part of that process’. The child also felt like she was being ‘coached’ by Phythian during the abuse, the court was told.

Jurors were told that on the first occasion the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was plied with rum at the couple’s home before being ‘dared’ by Zara, 36, to perform a sex act on Victor after showing her how. After that, it was claimed the Marke abused the girl ‘once or twice a month’ for the next three years, and urged her ‘not to tell anyone’. 

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Marke is also charged with four further allegations, all denied, of indecent assault on another teenage girl between 2002 and 2003. 

The abuse is claimed to have happened between 2005 and 2008 when the couple were martial arts instructors in Nottinghamshire before she was a Hollywood actress. Pictured: Ms Phythian also known as Ms Marke as Zealot in Doctor Strange with Mads Mikkelsen

She is also the star of a number of martial arts action movies including Tribal: Get out Alive with another due out this year

Ms Phythian as Zealot in Doctor Strange with Mads Mikkelsen (left). She is also the star of a number of martial arts action movies including Tribal: Get out Alive with another due out this year

The underage girl, now an adult, says that Zara Phythian (pictured) and Victor Marke filmed the abuse in a bid to recreate pornographic scenes

The underage girl, now an adult, says that Zara Phythian (pictured) and Victor Marke filmed the abuse in a bid to recreate pornographic scenes

Marke, 59, and Phythian, 36, – whose legal name is now Zara Marke – deny 14 charges of sexual activity with a child. 

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As well as being cast in Hollywood hit Doctor Strange as the character Brunette Zealot, the actress has also appeared in a string of other films under her stage name Zara Phythian, with her latest action movie Accident Man 2 due out this year. 

Jurors were shown a video interview their alleged victim gave to police. In it, she described how she would stay at the Markes’ then home in Arnold, Nottingham, where the pair would ‘let her drink’, even though she was just 13.

It was there, she said, that the abuse began. She told officers: ‘It was Captain Morgan’s Dark Rum. My mum did not like me drinking. I was not allowed to drink.

‘Zara asked me if I wanted to play a game of ‘dare’, and started [performing a sex act on] Victor. She asked me to do the same.

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‘Then he took it in turns to have sex with each of us.

‘I just tried to copy Zara’s reactions and emotions, the noises she was making. I had never received much attention from boys. I think I just liked the attention. It just went on from there.’ The alleged victim, now in her late 20s, claimed the sexual activity continued ‘once or twice a month’ until she was 16 – with Victor Marke, 59, asking her to record him and his wife on some occasions, and filming her on others. She added: ‘I knew it was wrong, but I did not know how to get out of the situation, or say anything.

‘I just did whatever they asked me to do. They made it seem like I was some naughty kid and they were helping me out. I just felt like there was no way out. They told me not to say anything.’

Marke, a taekwondo ‘master’, used his position of trust to ‘satisfy his sexual urges’ in targeting the girl – with his wife acting ‘as part of that process’, the jury at their trial was told

Marke, a taekwondo ‘master’, used his position of trust to ‘satisfy his sexual urges’ in targeting the girl – with his wife acting ‘as part of that process’, the jury at their trial was told

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Nottingham Crown Court heard that alongside Phythian's acting career, the couple were sports coaches who ‘commanded admiration and respect within the martial arts world’

Nottingham Crown Court heard that alongside Phythian’s acting career, the couple were sports coaches who ‘commanded admiration and respect within the martial arts world’

She estimated Marke, a coach in martial arts and Taekwondo at a very high level, had sex with her about 20 times on different occasions.  

Phythian, who portrayed Brunette Zealot in the Marvel film, was ‘at the height of her success,’ said barrister, Francis McGrath, who is representing Marke, the film star’s husband. 

Mr McGrath made reference to Phythian’s climb to fame as he cross-examined the woman who has claimed Marke repeatedly indecently assaulted her as a teenager.

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He said: ‘Throughout 2016, you would be aware from national media and social media posts, she (Zara Marke) was enjoying unprecedented personal and professional success in a motion picture starring Benedict Cumberbatch. 

‘On December 4, 2016, at the height of her success, you made a complaint’.

This led to a police video recording of her allegations two days later. 

The woman told the court, ‘they are not linked’ – when it was suggested she went to police after ‘Zara Phythian’ – someone from her youth – was experiencing the unprecedented success referred to.

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The woman had told police she was groomed and sexually touched by Marke of Ravenshead. After she turned 16, he is alleged to have had sex with her.

The victim said she decided it was the responsible thing to make a disclosure to police due to the job she was in. 

She told the court she was dealing with two safeguarding cases at work, ‘matters which were very tough to deal with and, me personally, was taking a toll on’. 

After she felt she could not cope with ‘not saying anything anymore’, she decided to say something.

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The jury later heard claims that Zara had an intimate tattoo on her body. The victim told the court it was an ‘Oriental symbol’ that she believed meant ‘paradise’, adding: ‘That’s what she said to me.’

James Varley QC, defending Zara, also said that the actress had been offered a role performing with Britain’s Got Talent winners Diversity on their UK dance tour in 2010 – but was forced to turn it down because she was ‘defending a (martial arts) world title in India’.

He added: ‘By this stage, Zara had become quite well known in the martial arts community. ‘She had won two World Records for kicking stuff off people’s heads, had done film stuff, and had won World Championships, and it was because of her fame in that community that she was invited to perform something martial-artsy in Diversity’s Show.

‘She is developing a media career.’ 

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Marke faces four allegations, all denied, of historic indecent assault on another woman who was 15 at the time between 2002 and 2003. 

He is also jointly charged with his wife, Phythian, of 14 denied allegations of sexual activity with a different woman who was a girl at the time.

The trial continues.

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