Actress Zara Phythian and husband guilty of child sex offences

By Caroline Lowbridge
BBC News

Published
Image source, Zara Phythian/Instagram
Image caption,
Victor Marke and Zara Phythian married in 2015

A film actress and her martial arts instructor husband have been found guilty of child sex offences.

Zara Phythian - who appeared in Doctor Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch - groomed and sexually abused a girl together with her husband Victor Marke.

Marke also sexually abused another girl on his own.

Phythian, who is 37, was found guilty of 14 sexual offences at Nottingham Crown Court while her husband, who is 59, was found guilty of 18.

The court heard the couple met when he was her martial arts instructor, and she went on to have a successful career in martial arts, as a stuntwoman, and actress.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Phythian appeared in Doctor Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch

When Victor Marke gave his evidence at Nottingham Crown Court, he admitted sexual activity with one of the girls but claimed she was 18 at the time.

The prosecution said he had engaged in numerous "threesomes" with the girl and Phythian, starting when the girl was 13.

However, Marke claimed the sexual activity happened on only one occasion, and said Phythian was not involved.

When Phythian gave her evidence, she denied any kind of sexual activity with the girl.

Speaking after the guilty verdicts, Nicole Hepburn from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the couple had been "exposed as the true liars".

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
The couple were on bail throughout the trial at Nottingham Crown Court

Marke and Phythian were in a relationship when they abused the girl and later married in 2015. She stood trial under her married name of Zara Marke.

Victor Marke, from Mavis Avenue, Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire, was found guilty of the following charges:

  • Four counts of indecently assaulting a child, in relation to a 15-year-old girl he abused between 2002 and 2003
  • Fourteen counts of sexual activity with a child, in relation to a girl he and Phythian abused between 2005 and 2008, when the girl was aged 13, 14 and 15

Zara Phythian, from Taurus Close, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, was found guilty of the following charges:

  • Fourteen counts of sexual activity with a child, in relation to a girl she and Marke abused between 2005 and 2008, when the girl was aged 13, 14 and 15

The couple hugged each other in court as the barristers and judge discussed when they will be sentenced, and Marke could be heard crying.

They had been on bail throughout the trial, but Judge Mark Watson remanded them into custody after the guilty verdicts, and said he would sentence them on 16 May.

He told them: "Both of you know the sentence I pass on 16 May is likely to be measured by a considerable period of custody."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Phythian was found guilty of 14 sexual offences

The girls, who are now adults, reported the abuse to police many years after it happened. Ms Hepburn from the CPS encouraged others to do the same.

"This abuse may have occurred some years ago, but that makes it no less serious and nor is it a barrier to justice," she said.

"I would encourage anyone who has been abused in the past to come forward with the knowledge that the CPS will take your case seriously."

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