Husband of Dr Strange star Zara Phythian said sex abuse ‘victim’ made claims because she’s ‘jealous’

The husband of Hollywood actress Zara Phythian accused of sexually abusing a schoolgirl angrily told police ‘I’m no paedophile’, a court has heard.

Taekwondo ‘master’ Victor Marke is accused of grooming the youngster from the age of 13 alongside his wife Zara, who starred in the hit 2016 Marvel film ‘Doctor Strange’ with Benedict Cumberbatch.

Prosecutors claim the pair, both martial arts experts, regularly assaulted the teenager between 2005 and 2008 at their home – with Victor occasionally filming the incidents.

Jurors at Nottingham Crown Court have been told the alleged abuse began after the Markes plied the girl with rum, before Zara, who has appeared in several movies under the name Zara Phythian, ‘dared’ her to perform a sex act on Victor.

The assaults are said to have progressed to including full sexual intercourse, with activity taking place ‘once or twice a month’, with the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, being ordered ‘not to tell anyone’.

The court also heard how Victor denied being a paedophile during his police interview, before adding the girl could have vindictively made the allegations because she was ‘jealous’ of Zara’s success.

The Markes are jointly charged with 14 counts of sexual activity with a child, which they deny.

Hollywood actress Zara Phythian, 36, from Mansfield, who starred in the Marvel blockbuster with Benedict Cumberbatch ,with spouse Victor Marke, 59, are jointly charged with 14 counts of sexual activity with a child

Victor has also pleaded not guilty to indecently assaulting a 15-year-old girl from 2002 to 2003.

Transcripts from his police interviews after he was arrested on suspicion of the alleged 2002/03 offences were read to jurors by prosecutor Ahmad Hossein QC.

The hearing was told that as the 59-year-old was being quizzed by Detective Inspector Parminder Dhillon, of Notts Police, in 2017, he said: ‘I’m angry about what is being said.

‘I do not want to say anything bad about her (the alleged victim) because I am really angry.

‘I know I play it close to the border with banter. I always have done. I chat like I am 18 myself.

‘But if you are trying to say I am a paedophile, I am not.

‘I am fully aware of the rights and wrongs, if that is what you are trying to say.’

Asked if he knew why the allegations had been made, Victor replied: ‘No, no, no, I do not know where they have come from.’

He added the girl may have been ‘jealous’ of Zara, 36, who appeared in Doctor Strange shortly before the claims were reported to police.

Victor told Det Insp Dhillon: ‘When me and my wife split up I remember she found it quite shocking when I ended up with Zara. I got the impression she was quite upset with me.

‘In November Doctor Strange came out and Zara is all over the cinema.

‘Has she (the alleged victim) had enough? Is she a bit peed off?

‘I think some people may have been aware of a jealousy thing between (the girl) and Zara.’

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 husband Victor

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 husband Victor

The abuse is claimed to have happened between 2005 and 2008 when the couple were martial arts instructors in Nottinghamshire before she was a Hollywood actress. Pictured: Ms Phythian also known as Ms Marke as Zealot in Doctor Strange with Mads Mikkelsen

She is also the star of a number of martial arts action movies including Tribal: Get out Alive with another due out this year

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

As the individual claims – that he had indecently touched the girl on several occasions – were put to Victor, he at one point apologised for shouting, and said: ‘This is paedophile s***. You have to stop this s*** now.

‘I swear on God, no. I do not believe she said this. There is something going off. I don’t believe she would say this. Why has she said this? She has got no reason to.

‘Is she under pressure from someone? This is bulls***. You have to have a look at her. I think she is ill.

‘I have had no sexual relations or contact with her. I just want to go home. I need to tell my wife this. I feel angry now.’

It was then put to Victor that some of his electronic devices had been seized. Asked if there was ‘anything on them that will get you in trouble’, he replied: ‘Porn. Legal porn. No child stuff if that is what you are trying to suggest.

‘There might be some personal sex between me and the missus, stuff we like.

‘You are allowed to film yourself, aren’t you? It’s not illegal.’

The second alleged victim, who has accused both Victor and Zara Marke of sexual activity with her, previously told the hearing how she finally revealed what she described as her ‘darkest secret’ years later when a police officer knocked on her mum’s door to say the first girl had made claims against Victor.

At that time, the court has heard how Taekwondo black belt Zara, of Mansfield, Notts, was enjoying ‘unprecedented personal and professional success’ thanks to her acting career, including the role of ‘Brunette Zealot’ in Doctor Strange.

The girl said she ‘would never have come forward’ and planned to ‘die with my shame’ – but had recently become a mum, and felt she had ‘no option to speak my truth’ in a bid to stop anyone else being targeted in the same way she claimed to have been.

Giving evidence from behind a screen last Thursday while Victor, of Ravenshead, Notts, and Zara sat in the dock, she added: ‘That was my deepest, darkest secret.

‘I thought that if I was to say anything, then my family would hate me. At that time I really hated my mum. I got stuck because I had this secret and I could not tell her.’

In a videotaped interview also played to the jury that the alleged victim gave to police, she told how the Markes ‘preyed’ upon her.

She said: ‘They saw the vulnerability in me and preyed on that, and saw my mum was struggling, and took advantage of that.

‘I found it quite hard and they kind of instructed me through all of it (the sexual activity).’

Referring to the alleged filming of the incidents, she added: ‘All I can remember is he used to record.

‘I don’t know what he did with them. I never saw them again. I did not want to see them. I was ashamed. It was a power they had over me.

‘I never knew how to get out of that situation. I could not see a way out.’

The alleged victim went on to claim the Markes had ‘made me leave college six months in’, adding: ‘They really ruined my education in a sense’.

She said that she finally told a friend what had been going on when she was 18, and had later spoken to Zara on the phone, telling jurors: ‘I said I am not coming back. Zara said, ‘Don’t come back, I’m burning all your stuff’.’

The court has previously heard Victor’s marriage broke down around 2005 after he had an affair with Zara, who was herself a teenager at the time.

In his opening speech to the jury at the start of the trial, Mr Hossain said: ‘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.’

In a later police interview, that took place in March 2017, Victor was quizzed after he and Zara had been arrested over claims they had sexual activity with the second girl.

He told detectives he and his wife had ‘met through training’, and got together after he separated from his first wife, Juliet, adding: ‘She helped me find a flat and then we ended up together.

‘She was the only one there for me to be honest. People weren’t appreciative of a 40-year-old going out with a 19-year-old.’

Victor was also asked by the police if the couple owned any sex toys.

He replied: ‘You would have to ask Zara,’ then added: ‘Dildos, gags, whips, panel things.

‘Nothing illegal, just Victoria’s Secret stuff. A bed strap thing where you strap someone down on the bed.’

The court heard the couple had also taken part in filming their sex life with a Go Pro camera, and swinging. However, Victor wouldn’t comment on the latter, telling officers: ‘I am not willing to talk about mine and Zara’s sex life any more.’

Victor then admitted he had had sex with the girl on four occasions – but claimed it was after she had turned 18, and was ‘consensual’.

He went on to say the alleged victim was ‘evil’, ‘hurtful’, and a ‘nutter’.

The trial continues.

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