A Marvel film actress who sexually abused a 13-year-old girl has reportedly become a jail cleaner behind bars.

Zara Phythian, who starred in the franchises 2016 film Doctor Strange alongside Benedict Cumberbatch, has enrolled on an industrial cleaning course in the hope it will find her a job when her sentence ends.

The film star was sentenced to eight years imprisonment earlier this year Phythian was found guilty of sexually abusing a teenage girl alongside her husband Victor Marke. 

The abuse went on for three years when the teeange girl was between the ages of 13 and 15. 

Zara Phythian (right) starred in Marvel's 2016 film Dr Strange alongside film star Benedict Cumberbatch (left)

Zara Phythian (right) starred in Marvel’s 2016 film Dr Strange alongside film star Benedict Cumberbatch (left)

Phythian is carrying out her jail term at Foston Hall Prison in Derbyshire. Former inmates of the prison include Maxine Carr, dubbed ‘the most hated woman in Britain’ after she covered up for murderer Ian Huntley and mother Karen Matthews, who faked the kidnapping of her own daughter.

Phythian’s father Andy, who visits his daughter twice each month, told The Mirror: ‘She’s coping surprisingly well. They’ve put her on an industrial cleaning course.

‘If you did it on the outside it would cost you £5,000 to get the certification. A chosen few are selected to help reflect their good behaviour.

‘Hopefully it will come in useful when she gets out.’

Phythian’s husband Marke, 59, was jailed for 14 years for abusing the same victim and of indecent assault on a second girl.

In total, the couple from Nottinghamshire were found guilty of 14 counts of sexual activity.

The court heard that martial arts and Taekwondo ‘master’ Marke, plied the teenager with rum before making her perform a sex act on her partner.

He and Phythian would abuse the girl ‘once or twice a month’ at their home over a three-year period from 2005.

The actress has been jailed for eight years. The court found her guilty of plying a teenager with rum before forcing her to perform a sex act on her partner

The actress has been jailed for eight years. The court found her guilty of plying a teenager with rum before forcing her to perform a sex act on her partner 

During Marke’s sentencing, the judge said Phythian’s ‘deviance’ was shaped by the influence Marke had on her from an early age.

A court heard the abuse began after Phythian gave the victim booze and asked if she wanted to ‘play dare’ with her husband.

Marke, 59, then had sex with the schoolgirl about 20 times on different occasions.

The actress’s father, however, is adamant that his daughter was groomed by her husband.

He added: ‘Zara accepts her situation and is just ­trying to do the right thing while she serves her sentence.

‘She’s got a job in the gym where she trains and teaches yoga and self-defence ­classes.

‘New inmates who don’t know her think she works with the prison, but she has to explain to them that she is a prisoner herself.

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‘I think it is the polite way she talks and comes over as educated.’

Mr Phythian said his daughter is looking to complete a sports science degree from the prison at the end of the month.

The actresses father, Andy, said she has now taken on an industrial cleaning course while serving her sentence at Foston Hall Prison in Derbyshire

The actresses father, Andy, said she has now taken on an industrial cleaning course while serving her sentence at Foston Hall Prison in Derbyshire

He added that the actress had ‘a lot grief’ when she first entered the prison, causing her to be put in isolation ‘for her own safety’ but said this has stopped now.

The victim, who cannot be named, earlier this year described the couple as ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ characters and said Marke threatened her while ordering her to film the abuse. 

After her sentence was passed in May, members of Phythian’s family shouted ‘we love you Zara’ to which she responded: ‘I’m innocent, I love you all.’ 

Marke could be heard sobbing uncontrollably as he arrived into the court room to hear his fate.

Sentencing, Judge Mark Watson said at the time: ‘It has been said that both of you present as impressive individuals, each with a long list of accomplishment.

‘You, Victor Marke, were somebody your students looked up to. You Zara Marke were also someone that was looked up to by those you taught.

Phythian's father Andy (pictured), who visits his daughter twice each month, said his daughter has taken on an industrial cleaning course at the prison

Phythian’s father Andy (pictured), who visits his daughter twice each month, said his daughter has taken on an industrial cleaning course at the prison

‘Most people have held you in high esteem. That is why you were able to groom the victims in this case and get away with it for so long.

‘You groomed her and there was a significant disparity in your ages.

‘Both of you exposed her to sex acts. You showed her how you liked it and she described it as a ‘very advanced, dirty, naughty side’.

‘She said ‘God I’ve done everything and I’m not even 16 yet.’

‘At the time she was already vulnerable, in the sense she was young and had not gone through puberty.

‘Much of the sexual behaviour was video recorded.

‘Victor Marke, I describe you as the driving force behind the abuse. The sex act that did take place would end when you had fulfilled your needs.

‘You were also the older part and occupied a higher status in the world of martial arts.

‘Both you and Zara Marke were immersed in that regime, everyone was all too aware of the pecking order – you were at the top.

‘Each of you shares responsibility. Your offending involved multiple types of sex acts and more importantly you offended together.

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‘I have to deal with you both for a course of offending that lasted three years. I do take account of your good character but this may be of limiting value.

‘There will be no chance for either of you to see the other, which will cause some distress. ‘

Addressing Phythian, the judge said: ‘The sentence in your case will be shorter.

‘There was one victim and you were younger at the time and I do not view you as the driving force behind this.

‘You were besotted with Victor Marke. I am in no doubt your deviance was shaped by him.

‘You had been the focus of his attentions. Your relationship started at a time when you were young.

‘None of this excuses what you did, you may have done them to fulfill Victor Marke’s urges but you still chose to play your part. ‘

Jurors heard how the teen would regularly stay with the pair at their home when the abuse started.

She told police how she was given rum before being asked by Zara – also a martial arts expert – if she wanted to play ‘dares’.

The actress then began performing a sex act on her husband before asking the victim to do the same.

The girl claimed he then ‘took it in turns’ to have sex with them both.

She told officers the abuse continued until she turned 18 and included Victor asking her to record him and Zara.

The girl said he also filmed the abuse, telling the court it was an attempt to re-create the pornography the couple watched.

Giving evidence during the trial, the victim told the jury: ‘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.’

The court was told Victor used his position of trust to ‘satisfy his sexual urges’ alongside his wife.

She was described as a ‘major personality’ who was ‘enjoying unprecedented personal and professional success’ after her role in Marvel film Doctor Strange.

Ahmed Hossain QC, prosecuting, said during the trial: ‘Both of those defendants commanded admiration and respect within the martial arts world.

‘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.’

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The court was told Zara, who uses the stage name Phythian, branded the allegations ‘bulls**t’ when she was quizzed by police.

She said: ‘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 actress revealed in the police interviews her husband claimed he had ‘consensual’ sex with the girl only after she turned 18.

Phythian said she felt ‘confused’ and ‘would liked to have known about it’.

She also admitted she owned a sex toy ‘collection’ during questioning after the victim claimed the aids were used on her.

Nicole Hepburn, from the CPS, said after the case: ‘This was an appalling case of exploiting a position of trust and respect to gain sexual gratification.

‘Victor Marke ruthlessly took advantage of the age and vulnerability of these girls, as well as his status as an admired coach.

‘He made them feel special and listened to and then abused them. Zara Marke similarly exploited her position to perpetrate child abuse.

‘Both defendants have denied their actions, instead blaming the victims and accusing them of lying.

‘Thanks to their evidence, given clearly and credibly in court, the Markes themselves have been exposed as the true liars.

‘It does take courage to stand up to your abusers and give evidence in this way and I would like to express my respect and gratitude to the survivors for everything they have done to ensure the Markes are held responsible for their criminal actions.

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

‘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.’

Detective Inspector Parminder Dhillon, of Nottinghamshire Police, said after the case: ‘Today’s events mark the end of a very long and challenging legal process for the victims and their families.

‘Although these sentences can’t undo the very considerable harm done to the young women at the centre of this case, I do hope that they offer at least some degree of comfort.

‘The Markes worked together to exploit and abuse a girl for their own sexual gratification.

‘In doing so they committed some of the most serious offences that can be committed against children and have rightfully been handed very considerable jail sentences.

‘I hope this case serves as a timely reminder to all victims of sexual abuse.

‘If you come forward and tell us what happened to you, we will investigate and we will get to the truth.’


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