An actress who appeared in a superhero movie alongside Benedict Cumberbatch yelled “I’m innocent” as she was jailed for grooming and sexually abusing a schoolgirl on Monday.
Stuntwoman and martial arts expert Zara Marke was cast in the 2016 Marvel film Doctor Strange which grossed almost AUD$988 million at the box office, and has featured in a string of other UK and US films.
But the 37-year-old was jailed for eight years yesterday after she was found guilty of sexual activity with a teenager over a three-year period, starting when the victim was just 13.
Prosecutors said Marke and her husband Victor Marke, 59, regularly took part in “threesomes” with the young girl when she stayed at their home, with Victor sometimes filming the “depraved” acts to recreate porn film scenes he had watched with his wife.
Taekwondo master Victor Marke was convicted of molesting a second victim, and received a 14-year sentence after a judge branded him the “driving force” behind the abuse.
Judge Mark Watson said he believed that the actress, who joined Victor Marke’s martial arts academy as a 14-year-old girl and began an affair with the married man when she was 19, had been “besotted” with the teacher 22 years her senior.
He told her: “I am in 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 the corruption of your victim, when you should have protected her.”
The defendants, from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, wept and shook their heads during an hour-long hearing that ended with both being ordered to sign the sex offenders register for life.
They will serve half their sentences behind bars before becoming eligible for parole. As she was led out of court, Marke, wearing a grey prison tracksuit, shouted to relatives in the public gallery: “I’m innocent. I love you all.”
Earlier, the judge had told the couple they had exposed their “vulnerable” 13-year-old victim to “sexual behaviour far beyond her years and maturity”.
He added: “This was done without consideration or care for how this would affect her or her development.”
Nottingham Crown Court heard the abuse began in 2005 after the Markes plied the girl with rum, before Marke, who appeared on screen under her maiden name Zara Phythian, “dared” her to perform a sex act on her husband.
It progressed to full sexual intercourse, with activity taking place “once or twice a month”until 2008.
Victor Marke was yesterday convicted of four counts of indecent assault on a second victim between