A British Hollywood actress who starred in Marvel’s Doctor Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch groomed a 13-year-old girl with her husband and filmed themselves abusing her after plying the victim with dark rum, a court has heard.
Martial arts expert Zara Phythian, 36, from Nottinghamshire, is on trial accused of 14 charges of sexual activity with a child with her partner Victor Marke, 59.
Phythian, who starred in the 2016 Marvel film viewed as Cumberbatch’s blockbuster breakthrough, targeted the teenager with Marke – with the abuse starting when the alleged victim was just 13. The couple filmed most of the abuse in bid to recreate their favourite porn scenes, the prosecution say.
The attacks are claimed to have happened between 2005 and 2008 when they were martial arts instructors in Arnold – but the girl went to the police about Marke and Phythian ‘at the height of her success’.
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’.
Marke is also charged with four further allegations, all denied, of indecent assault on another teenage girl between 2002 and 2003.
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
Victor and Zara Marke, both pictured, who are married, have gone on trial at Nottingham Crown Court accused of a series of serious sex crimes
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
Marke, 59, and Phythian, 36, – whose legal name is now Zara Marke – deny 14 charges of sexual activity with a child.
Zara Phythian (pictured) is said to have shown the alleged victim how to perform a sex act on her husband
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.
‘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
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.
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.
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.
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.