Hollywood actress Zara Phythian was facing a jail sentence today after she was convicted of child sex offences.
Phythian, 36, who starred in the 2016 Marvel superhero film Doctor Strange, alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton, was found guilty of sexually abusing a girl over three years, starting when she was 13.
She and her Taekwondo ‘master’ husband Victor Marke, 59, were jointly charged with 14 historic counts of sexual activity with the girl.
Her husband was also charged with four counts of indecently assaulting another girl between 2002 and 2003.
The couple had denied all the charges, but a jury found them guilty following a trial at Nottingham Crown Court.
Hollywood actress Zara Phythian was facing a jail sentence today after she was convicted of child sex offences
Phythian, 36, who starred in the 2016 Marvel superhero film Doctor Strange, alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton, was found guilty of sexually abusing a girl over three years, starting when she was 13
Phythian (pictured with Benedict Cumberbatch) and her Taekwondo ‘master’ husband Victor Marke, 59, were jointly charged with 14 historic counts of sexual activity with the girl
MailOnline has uncovered disturbing details about how the origin of Victor and Zara’s own relationship follow a similar pattern to the grooming that was highlighted in their trial.
The couple met when she was just 14 and he was 37 after she joined his School of Champions academy in Nottingham which he had started with his former wife Juliet, and she started to train under him.
She was aged 19 and he was aged 42 when they started a sexual relationship. His marriage to wife Juliet ended after his relationship with Zara became public.
At the time, he was considered to be one of Britain’s leading martial artists and was head of the World Congress of Martial Arts Association.
The trial heard that she had undergone a ceremony to become his ‘official disciple’. MailOnline can reveal that Zara is said to have accepted Victor as her ‘master’ in an ancient Shaolin ceremony at the age of 17.
The court heard extracts from Zara’s police interview in which she described the claims as ‘bulls***’
After bowing before him and uttering some traditional verses, she allegedly swore allegiance to him, vowing to do everything he required of her, even if it went against her own values.
A martial arts enthusiast who once trained with the couple and only gave his first name as Bob, said: ‘The ceremony is taken very seriously in the martial arts world.
‘Once you accept somebody as your master, you have to completely accept what they ask you to do or say. ‘It’s like being a slave because you are at the mercy of the master. You are not even supposed to think for yourself because the master is your God.’
He added: ‘Victor groomed Zara as well as his other victims. He used his power and influence as a master of martial arts to dominate and control young girls.’
Martial arts enthusiast Paul, who once trained with the couple, told MailOnline: ‘Zara was very good at martial arts and was already a black belt by the time she started at Victor’s academy.
‘He took an instant shine to her and devoted a lot of time and energy on her development. It was obvious that she was his favourite pupil, and she worshipped the ground he walked on.’
He added: ‘It was very odd when we found out that he and Zara were having a relationship because of their age difference and the fact that he was such a senior martial arts figure. Juliet was devastated because she was left alone to bring up their baby.’
MailOnline can also reveal that Victor and Zara were friends with another prominent martial arts master Paul Drury who was jailed for 15 years in 2015 for raping a girl shortly before her 13th birthday at his home and his academy Zara and Victor visited and performed at his Black Belt Academy in Dawlish, Devon around at around the time they were carrying out their own crimes against their teenage victims.
Drury also posted a gushing interview with Zara in 2008 which was titled: ‘Looks like a model. Hits like Bruce Lee. The Zara Story.’ Francis McGrath, defending Victor, suggested that his two victims may have ‘colluded’ with each other, saying that the first girl had ‘given’ the second girl’s name to detectives.
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
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
He told jurors: ‘The two complainants in this case are not independent of each other. This is not a case where two people have gone to police independently and a link has been established.
‘You cannot eliminate the possibility there has been some form of collusion that has not been identified by the police. Mr Marke does not need to satisfy you that it has not occurred. It is a possibility that we cannot safely eliminate.’
But both the victims who are now women denied that they had conspired together in any way, and their claims were believed by the jury.
Prosecutor Ahmad Hossain QC told jurors in his closing speech: ‘Is there any benefit to either of these women? What is the benefit of making up false allegations and putting themselves through this?
‘You may feel you are drawn to the inescapable conclusion that they are telling the truth.
‘When you look at them closely the conclusion you can come to is that you can be sure what they said happened really happened.’
Earlier, he stated: ‘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 second girl said she ‘would never have come forward’ if police had not approached her, and that she had planned to ‘die with my shame’.
But she claimed that she had recently become a mother, and felt she had ‘no option to speak my truth’ in a bid to stop anyone else being targeted in the same way she had been.
The court heard how Zara and Victor had been hugely respected and admired within the martial arts world.
Giving evidence, Zara strongly denied any sexual activity with the girl, telling the court that she had ‘lied to me all the time I have known her’.