A Fraud video production – Who Wants To Be A Millionaire: The Major Fraud – Part 3 of 5:
Credit goes to RomeijnLand.
In an episode of the show recorded on 9 September 2001, Charles Ingram won the £1,000,000 prize. During the recording it was noticed that a suspicious pattern of coughing could be heard. Ingram’s unusual behaviour in the hot seat also drew attention. Analysed, it was believed that another contestant, Tecwen Whittock, sitting behind him, was offering him prompts in the form of coughs, indicating the correct answers. On some of the questions, Ingram read aloud all of the four answers, until a significant cough was heard, before choosing his answer. In some cases, he dismissed an answer, read aloud the answer choices again, and then picked the answer which he had earlier dismissed. It also appeared on the tapes that after Ingram repeated a particular incorrect answer several times believing it to be correct, Whittock coughed and then loudly whispered ‘No!’
After Ingram won the million, Tecwen Whittock won the next Fastest Finger game and so took to the hotseat. He reached the £8,000 mark, but dropped back to £1,000 after answering a cookery question incorrectly.
The Prosecution suggested that Ingram’s wife, Diana (who had won £32,000 on a previous show, as had her brother), had organised the scam. Pager telephone records revealed what appeared to be a practice session for another plan to cheat the system that was not subsequently carried out. The Prosecution claimed that the original plan was for Ingram to hide four pagers on his body that would vibrate when an accomplice called the pager indicating the correct answer.
Following a trial at Southwark Crown Court lasting seven weeks, Ingram, his wife Diana and Tecwen Whittock were convicted of “procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception” on 7 April 2003. Ingram and his wife were each given suspended 18-month prison sentences and fined £15,000, while Tecwen Whittock received a 12-month suspended sentence and was fined £10,000. Together with legal costs, the Ingrams had to pay £115,000, in addition to not receiving his £1,000,000.
Despite the conviction, the Ingrams and Tecwen Whittock continue to deny that they colluded or acted dishonestly. They appealed against the conviction. An ITV documentary entitled Millionaire: A Major Fraud, presented by Martin Bashir, was broadcast in Britain on 21 April 2003 with a follow-up two weeks later, Millionaire: The Final Act. The first advert in the first advertisement break in Major Fraud was for cough medicine, after a brainwave in the broadcaster’s advertising department. Excerpts from the recording were broadcast but with enhanced audio highlighting the coughs emanating, the Prosecution alleged, from Tecwen Whittock. Immediately after Major Fraud the uncut recording but again with enhanced audio was broadcast on ITV2. Major Fraud included additional video recorded during the programme of Mrs Ingram sitting in the audience and apparently prompting Major Ingram with her own coughing and making glances in the direction of Tecwen Whittock. Major Fraud also contained interviews with production staff and some contestants present at the recording describing how they felt that something unusual had been happening. Notably, none of the defendants were interviewed. Ingram described Major Fraud and the programme broadcast on ITV2 as “one of the greatest TV editing con tricks in history”.
On 24 July 2003, the British Army ordered Charles Ingram to resign his commission as a Major.
James Plaskett has argued in favour of the innocence of Ingram, his wife and Whittock. Plaskett’s essay led to journalist Bob Woffinden, who had a long time interest in miscarriages of justice, publishing a two page article in 9 October 2004 edition of the British newspaper the Daily Mail entitled Is the Coughing Major Innocent? Jon Ronson, who attended the trial and had written two articles about it in The Guardian wrote a piece published on 17 July 2006, entitled Are the Millionaire three innocent?.
Plaskett may also be heard at Episode 29 of The Pod Delusion podcast being interviewed by political blogger, Mark Thompson, who was himself led by Plaskett’s essay to take an interest in the case of The Millionaire Three. In January 2006, Plaskett himself made it into the hot seat and won £250,000. He subsequently sponsored Ingram for £25,000 to run the 2006 Flora London Marathon for the charity SENSE.