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Did Who Wants to Be a Millionaire contestant Charles Ingram really cheat?

See the evidence for and against

charles diana ingram
Emmy Griffiths
TV & Film Editor
20 December 2020
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It was a story that gripped the nation. After millions tuned in to watch Charles Ingram play and win the £1million jackpot on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, admiration turned into outrage when he was accused of cheating his way to the top with the help of his wife, Diana and a fellow quizzer, Tecwen Whittock. But did he really cheat? Find out here...

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What was the coughing major scandal on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? 

In 2001, Charles Ingram went on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire following his wife and brother-in-law's modest success on the show. Having practised with fastest finger first button of their own invention, he quickly managed to get into the chair opposite Chris Tarrant for the big money prize.

In the first episode, Charles struggled with some of the questions and needed to use two of his three lifelines to make it to £4000. On the second day, with Tecwen now one of the contestants in the fastest finger first seats, he made his way to the £1million jackpot

WATCH: The trailer for ITV's Quiz

While Chris Tarrant was impressed by his gameplay, producers immediately saw a red flag when Charles would erratically change his answers, occasionally opting for answers that he had admitted that he had never even heard of before. After watching the footage back, producers stripped back the sound and noticed that Tecwen appeared to cough after every right answer.

In one question, where it was clear that Charles didn't know the answer and received silence from Tecwen, his wife Diana also cleared her throat after the correct answer was mentioned - making it seem like a clear cut case: they had been cheating.

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What is the evidence for Charles Ingram's innocence? 

While there appears to be an overwhelming amount of evidence for his guilt, there seems to be many reasonable explanations to the unusual activity surrounding Charles' time on the show. For starters, Tecwen denied that he would cough after every answer, and that he in fact suffers from a persistent cough which was confirmed by his doctor on the stand during court. 

charles ingham

The moment Charles Ingram won a million pounds

It was also argued that Charles and Diana wouldn't have had time to come up with the plan with Tecwen, as they had only had a five minute conversation over the phone ahead of the show.

The defence barrister David Aubrey said: "When was this plan supposedly hatched? During a late-night telephone call, on September 9, lasting less than five minutes. Is it really likely that Mr Whittock would take part in such a hastily conceived scheme? Wouldn't he have said, 'You can't count on me. I'm liable to cough at any time!'" 

quiz matthew mcfayden

Matthew MacFadyen played Charles in Quiz, ITV's dramatisation of the events

It was also claimed that while there were indeed several coughs following the right answers, there were dozens of recorded coughs throughout the episode, and the particularly coughs following the right answers had been amplified for the court. Chris Tarrant himself claimed that he didn't hear the coughing from his seat opposite Charles.

Helen McCrory, who starred in ITV's dramatisation of the story, Quiz, speculated on the Ingrams' possible innocence. She said: "The fact that a lot of people at the time didn’t hear the cough … Chris Tarrant didn’t hear the cough, the person sitting opposite didn’t hear the cough, people either side didn’t hear the cough, yet for some reason he [Ingram] heard the cough." 

charles diana

Do you think the Ingrams did it? 

The writer of Quiz, James Graham, also point out that Charles was a very intelligent man, and had gotten into MENSA after show. He said: "He was painted in the press as an idiot, someone who couldn't have possibly known the answers to those questions. But you forget that he has a degree in engineering, and he applied to be accepted into Mensa and succeeded, thereby putting him in the top 2% of IQs in the country." 

Were the Ingrams found guilty of cheating? 

Charles and Diana Ingram and Tecwen Whittock were all found guilty of 'procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception' at the Southwark Crown Court in 2003. They were given suspended prison sentences and fined £15,000 each with £10,000 to prosecution costs. The Ingrams were also ordered to pay defence costs of £65,000. 

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