An actress who appeared in a superhero film alongside Benedict Cumberbatch shouted, “I’m innocent” when she was jailed Monday for grooming and sexually abusing a schoolgirl.
Stunt woman and martial arts expert Zara Marke was cast in the 2016 Marvel film Doctor Strange, which grossed nearly AUD$988 million at the box office, and was featured in a series of other British and American films.
Camera icon Benedict Cumberbatch pictured with Zara Phythian, aka Zara Marke. Credit: Instagram/Instagram
But the 37-year-old was jailed for eight years yesterday after being found guilty of sexual activity with a teenager over three years, starting when the victim was 13.
Prosecutors said Marke and her husband Victor Marke, 59, regularly participated in “threesomes” with the young girl while she was staying at their home, with Victor sometimes filming the “depraved” acts to recreate porn movie scenes he had seen with his wife.
Camera IconZara Marke is an actress and stuntwoman well versed in martial arts. Credit: Instagram/Instagram
Taekwondo master Victor Marke was convicted of assaulting a second victim and given a 14-year sentence after a judge labeled him the “driving force” behind the abuse.
Camera IconVictor Marke was named the ‘driving force’ behind the abuse. Credit: Facebook/Facebook
Judge Mark Watson said he believed the actress, who joined Victor Marke’s martial arts academy as a 14-year-old and began an affair with the married man when she was 19, was “faded” with the 22-year-older teacher.
He told her: “I have no doubt that your deviance was shaped by the influence he had on you from an early age… but you had a choice. You chose to play your part in your victim’s corruption when you should have been protecting her.”
Camera icon Zara Marke, center, cried when she was sentenced. Credit: Instagram/Instagram
The defendants, from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, wept and shook their heads during an hour-long hearing that ended with an order to sign the sex offender registry for life.
They will serve half their sentences behind bars before being eligible for parole. As she was led out of court, Marke, dressed in a gray prison tracksuit, shouted to relatives in the public gallery, “I’m innocent. I love you all.”
Camera icon Zara Marke claims to be innocent, even though she was convicted of the crimes. Credit: Instagram/Instagram
Earlier, the judge had told the couple they had exposed their “vulnerable” 13-year-old victim to “sexual behavior far beyond her age and maturity”.
He added, “This was done with no consideration or concern for how it would affect her or her development.”
Nottingham Crown Court heard the abuse began in 2005 after the Markes gave the girl rum before Marke, who appeared on the screen under her maiden name Zara Phythian, “challenged” her to perform a sexual act on her husband.
It progressed to full intercourse, with activity occurring “once or twice a month” until 2008.
Victor Marke was convicted yesterday on four counts of indecent assault on a second victim between…