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Dr Strange actress Zara Phythian jailed for eight years for child sex offences

An actress has been jailed for eight years for a string of sex attacks on a teenage girl which started when the victim was 13 (PA)
An actress has been jailed for eight years for a string of sex attacks on a teenage girl which started when the victim was 13 (PA)

An actress has been jailed for eight years for a string of sex attacks on a teenage girl which started when the victim was 13.

Zara Phythian and her husband Victor 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.

Marke, who was also found guilty of indecently assaulting a second complainant, was handed a 14-year sentence at Nottingham Crown Court.

Zara Phythian court case
Victor Marke outside Nottingham Crown Court before he was found guilty (Jacob King/PA)

Phythian, who featured in the 2016 blockbuster Doctor Strange and ran a martial arts academy, appeared calm in the dock on Monday as she was told the abuse was aggravated by its prolonged nature.

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.

Phythian denied being a paedophile during her two-week trial, while her husband, who is also a martial arts instructor, broke down in the witness box.

Jurors were told the abuse of the couple’s joint victim began when Phythian, then in her early 20s, asked her “Do you want to play dare?” and invited her to copy a sex act she had performed on Marke.

The victim, who cannot be named, told the court Marke threatened her and ordered her to film some of the abuse at the hands of the “Jekyll and Hyde” couple.

In her evidence to the court, Phythian said she was given a chance to star in films after being “spotted” at a martial arts contest in the United States.

She told jurors she runs a production company, has her own sports clothing brand and had formed a relationship with Marke when she was 19.

Phythian’s film career peaked in 2016, the court heard, when she auditioned for and got the part of “brunette zealot” in Doctor Strange, which starred Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role.

Marke, of Ravenshead, Nottinghamshire, denied touching one victim sexually and said the other complainant had given him oral sex when he was drunk and she had turned 18.