Following a two-week trial Zara Phythian, an actress and stuntwoman best known for her role as ‘Brunette Zealot’ in the box office hit Doctor Strange was found guilty of multiple child sexual offences. Phythian, who is approximately 38 years of age and her husband Victor Marke (59 years), a martial arts instructor were unanimously convicted at Nottingham Crown Court of 14 and 18 sexual offences respectively.
The couple was found guilty of sexual offences against a 13-year-old girl in the United Kingdom over a prolonged period between 2005 and 2008. Marke was also found guilty of four further counts of indecent assault of another girl, aged just 15 years that occurred between 2002 and 2003.
The Crown Prosecutor described how Phythian and Marke had groomed the young girls, with Marke using his status as an admired coach to make the girls feel special. Phythian was also said to have abused her position as a martial arts instructor to perpetrate child sexual abuse.
The court heard Marke, and Phythian met when he was her martial arts instructor.
According to the Nottingham Post local news service, Zara, who went by the name Zara Marke in court, ran the Personal Best Martial Arts Academy opposite Mansfield Police Station. The Nottingham Post further reported that Zara had been ‘besotted’ with Marke. Another person allegedly stated that Zara was a cold person who was besotted with ‘touchy feely’ Marke. Apparently, rumours of the couple’s crimes had been around for years.’
During the trial both Phythian and Marke blamed the victims for the abuse, accusing them of lying.
The victims had kept the shame of the abuse quiet until one came forward to report the abuse to the police. After hearing of this victim’s experience, a second victim came forward, reliving the harrowing details.
Detective Constable Paula Wilson of Nottinghamshire Police said she was ‘delighted that this case has now concluded and relieved for the victims that justice has been served.’ She went on to say that this had been a long and complex investigation made all the more challenging by the sheer volume of digital data we had to retrieve and examine, and the number of witnesses that were spoken to. Like all perpetrators of sexual abuse, the Markes were eventually undone by the determination of the victims who showed bravery and strength in coming forward and seeing this case through to the end.’ This statement was supported by the senior investigating officer – Detective Inspector Parminder Dhillon who thanked the two victims for their great courage in coming forward.
In a comforting statement to other victims of sexual violence, both police and prosecutors said that this case was a reminder that they ‘treat all allegations of sexual abuse with the utmost seriousness, and that, even in cases where offences occurred many years ago, we will thoroughly investigate, and we will do everything in our power to bring perpetrators to justice.
Sexual violence is an under-reported crime with only around three in 10 victims reporting incidents to police. In Australia, approximately 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men will experience sexual violence from the age of 15 years. The proportion of women who have experienced sexual violence has increased from 1.2% in 2012 to 1.8% in 2016.
If you, or someone you know has experienced sexual violence or is at risk of experiencing it, there is help available. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call Triple Zero (000). If you are not in immediate danger you can contact Policelink on 131 444 or alternatively visit the Queensland Police Service website for further information. For readers outside of Queensland, the website also has contact details for interstate police.
If you are over 18 years of age you can report anonymously online via the Queensland Police Service Alternative Reporting Option
There are also sexual violence support services available: