A Hollywood actress accused of abusing a schoolgirl with her Taekwondo master husband has branded the allegations ‘fabricated’ and ‘ridiculous’ at court.
Zara Marke, 36, who starred in the hit 2016 Marvel superhero film ‘Doctor Strange’ with Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton, is said to taken part in sexual activity with the youngster over a three-year period, starting when she was just 13.
But taking to the witness box at Nottingham Crown Court on Thursday, she attempted to discredit the alleged victim, claiming the teen had ‘lied to me all the time I have known her.’
Prosecutors claim Zara and husband Victor Marke, 59 regularly assaulted the teenager in their home – with Victor sometimes filming the incidents in an ‘attempt to recreate pornographic scenes’.
Jurors have been told the alleged abuse began in 2005 after the Markes plied the girl with Captain Morgan dark rum, before Zara, who has appeared in a string of movies under the name Zara Phythian, ‘dared’ her to perform a sex act on Victor.
The incidents are said to have progressed to including full sexual intercourse, with activity taking place ‘once or twice a month’ until 2008, and the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, being ordered ‘not to tell anyone’.
The Markes, both martial arts experts, are jointly charged with 14 counts of sexual activity with a child, which they have pleaded not guilty to.
Victor Marke, 59, is accused of grooming the youngster from the age of 13 alongside his actress wife Zara Phythian, 37 (they are seen arriving at Nottingham Crown Court)
Zara starred in Doctor Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch, left. She is now on trial for child sex offences with her husband Victor
On Thursday, Zara entered the witness box to give evidence in her own defence on day eight of the trial.
Wearing a light grey trouser suit and dark roll-neck top, she listened as her barrister James Varley described her as a ‘top-flight martial artist who branched off into a media and film career’.
Zara told jurors she was ‘spotted’ while taking part in a tournament in the US, after which she took part in Guinness World Record attempts on Sky TV, and did ‘lots of stunt work’.
She then began ‘working her way up the ladder’ – and in 2016 was successful in auditioning for the role of ‘Brunette Zealot’ in Doctor Strange, which grossed $677m at the box office.
Zara said: ‘It was a massive stepping stone. In early 2016 we did some pick-ups in New York and Los Angeles, and it (her role) was leaked to the media and there were photos of me and (actor) Mads Mikkelsen) on the streets.’
She added she was offered a position on tour with Britain’s Got Talent winners Diversity – but had to turn down the dance group because she was defending a world record in India.
Jurors heard the alleged abuse began after the couple plied the girl with Captain Morgan dark rum, before Zara (pictured) ‘dared’ her to perform a sex act on Victor
However, in March 2017 she was arrested on suspicion of sex crimes involving the girl alongside her husband.
Zara, who told the court that her current business interests included running a martial arts academy as well as owning an entertainment and production firm, said she’d ‘never been in trouble with the police before’.
She was then cross-examined by Ahmad Hossein QC, who put it to her that the sexual activity had started when she suggested she and the girl play a game of ‘dare’.
Zara replied: ‘That is not true, by the way. That is ridiculous.’
She went on to claim the alleged victim had ‘not been in my house at 13 or 14’, and that she ‘would not let her drink full stop if she is not 18.’
And when Mr Hossein listed a series of sex acts he suggested happened between Zara and the then-teenager, she replied: ‘It was not, and I think you know it was not.
‘That sexual activity that she described did not happen and is fabricated.’
Zara denied that she was ‘infatuated’ with her husband, who she met when he was her martial arts instructor.
The court heard the couple got together around 2005 when she was 19 despite Victor being more than 20 years her senior after his marriage ended.
Zara admitted news of their relationship created a ‘stir’, and confirmed she and Victor were still married.
The court earlier heard extracts from Zara’s police in which she described the claims as ‘bulls***.’
She went on to deny that anything had happened between her and the girl, adding: ‘They (the claims) are untrue.
‘She has lied to me all the time I have known her. I am not a paedophile, or a rapist. Nor is Vic.’
The Markes arriving at Nottingham Crown Court today, where they walked in under a large umbrella (right)
Zara suggested claims made against Victor alone by another girl had given the teenager ‘the opportunity to get back at me’, and said: ‘I just feel sick right now, and angry.’
Police went on to ask Zara about her sex life, including her ‘toy collection’, and videos officers found on electronic devices of her sleeping with other men following a search of the Markes’ home.
Zara admitted she owned a number of aids, including a ‘Rampant Rabbit’ and nipple tassles – but said her alleged victim, who referred to sex toys in her police statement, ‘could easily have gone through my belongings to find those’.
And referring to the videos, Zara told detectives it was ‘correct’ they featured her having ‘sex encounters’ with Victor, and men other than her husband. The court an intimate tattoo of Zara was visible at times – which she earlier told police meant ‘Victor’ in Chinese calligraphy.
In his police interviews Victor said he ‘didn’t know’ why the allegations had been made.
He added the girl may have been ‘jealous’ of Zara, who appeared in Doctor Strange shortly before the claims were reported to police.
Victor told Det Insp Dhillon: ‘When me and my wife split up I remember she found it quite shocking when I ended up with Zara. I got the impression she was quite upset with me.
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
‘In November Doctor Strange came out and Zara is all over the cinema.
‘Has she (the alleged victim) had enough? Is she a bit peed off?
‘I think some people may have been aware of a jealousy thing between (the girl) and Zara.’
Victor is also accused of indecently assaulting another teenage girl, between 2002 and 2003, which he denies.
In his opening speech to the jury at the start of the trial, Mr Hossain said: ‘Both of those defendants commanded admiration and respect within the martial arts world and the prosecution case is that Victor Marke groomed these two separate complainants when they were children and that he used his position of trust and authority to make them feel special so that he could satisfy his sexual urges.
‘And, it is the prosecution’s case, that Zara Marke was part of that process and Zara Marke acted, as is alleged, with Victor Marke.’
The trial continues.