Charles Ingram

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Charles Ingram
Charles Ingram 1.jpg
Charles Ingram with his wife Diana in 2006
Born Charles William Ingram
(1963-08-06) 6 August 1963 (age 54)
Shardlow, Derbyshire, England
Occupation Novelist and computer repairman
Known for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? cheating scandal
Spouse(s) Diana Ingram (1989–present)
Children Portia

Charles William Ingram (born 6 August 1963) is an English former British Army major known for cheating on the television game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in 2001. He was convicted at Southwark Crown Court on a single count of procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception. He was convicted of an unrelated insurance fraud in 2003, and ordered to resign his commission as a major by the Army Board.

Ingram is married to Diana Ingram (born 1965)[1] and has since participated in other television shows, including The Weakest Link, Wife Swap, Hell's Kitchen, and on Big Brother's Big Mouth.

Education and career[edit]

Born in Shardlow, Derbyshire, Ingram attended Oswestry School and obtained a BSc degree in civil engineering from Kingston Polytechnic, an MSc in corporate management from the Defence College of Management and Technology, part of Cranfield University, chartered membership of the Institute of Personnel and Development, membership of the Chartered Management Institute, and membership of the Association for Project Management. He joined Mensa in January 2003, three months before the court case, and also became a member of the Society of Authors.[citation needed]

In 1986, he trained for the Army at Sandhurst and was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Engineers.[2] He was promoted to the rank of captain in 1990[3] and major in 1995,[4] and in 1999, he served in Bosnia for six months on NATO peacekeeping duties. He was forced to resign from the Army in August 2003.[5][6]

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?[edit]

£1 million (15 of 15) - No time limit
A number one followed by one hundred zeros is known by what name?
• A: Googol • B: Megatron
• C: Gigabit • D: Nanomole
Ingram's £1 million question

On 9 and 10 September 2001, Ingram was a contestant on the television game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. His wife Diana Ingram and her brother Adrian Pollock had previously been contestants on the show, both winning £32,000.[7][8] The show, presented by Chris Tarrant, was one of the highest-rated in the United Kingdom at its peak in 1999; one edition was watched by 19 million viewers, a third of the British population.[9]

By the time recording ended on the first day, Ingram had reached £4,000 and used two of his three "lifelines". The production team doubted he would proceed much further when recording resumed; however, the he went on to win the top prize of £1 million.[9] Ingram flipped between answers erratically, appearing to settle on one answer before suddenly moving to another. For example, asked who recorded the 2000 Craig David album Born to Do It, Ingram said he had "never heard of" David and appeared to go for a different option before moving to the correct answer.[9]

The show's production company Celador suspended the £1 million payout after they suspected Ingram had cheated. Production staff accused Ingram and his wife of defrauding the game show by having an accomplice in the audience, lecturer Tecwen Whittock, cough when Ingram read out a correct answer.

Tarrant, who drank champagne with the Ingrams in their dressing room, said he was convinced that Ingram was genuine when he signed the £1 million cheque: "If I thought there was anything wrong, I certainly would not have signed it." When asked whether the atmosphere in the dressing room was tense after the show, Tarrant replied: "No, not at all. They seemed as normal as people who have just won a million pounds would be in the situation." However, he said that on his way to the dressing room, "I had been told there had been quite an unpleasant exchange."[10] A member of the crew, Eve Winstanley, testified in court that Ingram seemed very "unhappy" for someone who had just won a million pounds.[11]

Celador employees produced and reviewed various compilation tapes, before and after contacting the police. Celador and their editing company, Editworks, retained all the tapes during the case and reproduced all tapes for court.[citation needed]

In court, Paul Smith of Celador Productions confirmed that his company had previously produced a television programme involving witnesses about the case, for broadcast on ITV after the trial. This was subsequently broadcast on ITV a month after the trial as Tonight With Trevor McDonald – Major Fraud, which was credited with over 17 million viewers. Two weeks later, the day after Major Fraud aired in the US, the same channel broadcast another programme on the same topic entitled The Final Answer, which was credited with over 5 million viewers.


Following a trial at Southwark Crown Court lasting four weeks (including jury deliberation for three-and-a-half days), which ended soon after a jury member was evicted for discussing the case in public, Charles and Diana Ingram and Whittock were convicted by a majority verdict of "procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception" on 7 April 2003. Both the Ingrams and Whittock were each given prison sentences suspended for two years (the Ingrams were sentenced to 18 months and Whittock was sentenced to 12 months), each fined £15,000, and each ordered to pay £10,000 towards prosecution costs. Within two months of the verdict and sentence, the trial judge ordered the Ingrams to pay additional defence costs: Charles Ingram £40,000 and Diana Ingram £25,000. Altogether with legal fees, the Ingrams had to pay £115,000.

On 19 August 2003, the Army Board ordered Ingram to resign his commission as a major, after 17 years of service, but stated that this would not affect his pension entitlements.[12]

On 19 May 2004, the Court of Appeal denied Ingram leave to appeal against his conviction and upheld his sentence but agreed to quash his wife's fine and prosecution costs.[13] On 5 October 2004, the House of Lords denied Ingram his leave to appeal against his fine and prosecution costs, and he appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. On 20 October 2004, the original trial judge reduced Ingram's defence costs order to £25,000 and Diana Ingram's defence costs order to £5,000.[14] On 21 May 2005, Ingram appealed against his conviction to the Criminal Cases Review Commission. The CCRC completed its review in autumn 2006, concluding that "there was insufficient prospect of overturning the conviction".

Bob Woffinden, who had a longtime interest in miscarriages of justice, published a two-page article in the Daily Mail in 2004, entitled "Is The Coughing Major Innocent?"

In 2006, journalist Jon Ronson, who covered the case for the Guardian at the time, wrote that he believed the Ingrams may be innocent. He was persuaded by an argument by James Plaskett, who had won £250,000 on Millionaire and had been in the audience three times. Ronson had observed that when the word "cough" was mentioned during the trial, pensioners in the public gallery had involuntarily coughed. Plaskett argued that this was an example of coughs being caused by unconscious triggers, and that Tecwen had simply coughed involuntarily when he heard the correct answer. He argued that Tecwen had audibly said "no" in response to an incorrect option in the same way that many audience members whisper "no" to each other.[15]

A book covering the case, Bad Show: The Quiz, The Cough, The Millionaire Major by Bob Woffinden and James Plaskett was published in January 2015.

Charles Ingram's fine and court costs total of £25,000 were later reduced to £5,000 on appeal.[16]

Quiz, a play written by James Graham that re-examines the events and subsequent conviction of the Ingrams and Whittock, opened at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, on 3 November 2017, running until 9 December 2017.[17] The play transferred to the West End - playing at the Noël Coward Theatre from 31 March 2018 to 16 June 2018.[18]

Recorded evidence[edit]

In court, Ingram claimed the video tape was "unrepresentative of what I heard"; indeed, he continues to assert that it was "unfairly manipulated". A video recording with coughing amplified relative to other sounds including Ingram's and Tarrant's voices was prepared by Celador's editors (Editworks) for the prosecution and "benefit of the jury" during the trial (and later for viewers in television broadcasts). Ingram claims that he neither "listened for, encouraged, nor noticed any coughing". The prosecution alleged that, of the 192 coughs recorded during his second-night performance, 32 were recorded from the ten Fastest Finger First contestants, and that 19 of the 32 coughs heard on the video tape were "significant". The prosecution asserted that these "significant" coughs were by Whittock, each falling any time after the correct answer had been spoken. Chris Tarrant also denied hearing any coughing in court, claiming he was too busy to notice.[10]

Testimony of Larry Whitehurst[edit]

Larry Whitehurst, another contestant who has appeared on the show as a Fastest Finger First contestant on four occasions, was adamant that he had known the answers to Ingram's questions. He told the court that he had been able to detect a pattern of coughing, and that he was entirely convinced that coughing had helped Ingram.[19] On the fourteenth question on the night, Whitehurst was drawn towards Whittock after he had made too much coughing and nose blowing, due to the fact that Ingram was about to answer the question wrongly. On the million pound question, he knew the answer to the question so he was able to study the process between the men, and as soon as Whittock coughed on the right answer, Whitehurst believed they were cheating.

Testimony of Tecwen Whittock[edit]

Whittock claims to have suffered a persistent cough for his entire life[20] and insisted that he had a genuine cough caused by a combination of hay fever and a dust allergy, and that it was only coincidence that his throat problem coincided with the right answer.[21] During the trial, however, the jury heard evidence that once Whittock himself earned the right to sit in the hot seat, his throat problems disappeared.[21] Whittock later testified that he drank several glasses of water before he went in front of the cameras.[22] Whittock also insisted that he had not known the answers to three of the questions he allegedly helped with. However, the police found the answer to question number 12, regarding the artist who painted The Ambassadors, in a hand-written general knowledge book at his home.[21]

Davies, the floor manager, said that, as soon as the coughing came to his notice during the recording, he decided to find out who was responsible. "The loudest coughing was coming from Tecwen in seat number three", he said. "He was talking to the person to his left when I was observing him, and then he turned towards the set and the hot seat to cough." Whittock remarked during the trial that "you do not cough into someone's face".[23]

During the trial, Whittock portrayed himself as a "serial quiz show loser" because he had been eliminated in round one of 15 to 1 and had only won an atlas on his appearance on Sale of the Century.[24] However, Whittock twice won the Wales heat of Brain of Britain (on BBC Radio 4) and in the 1994 semi-final was only narrowly beaten into runner-up spot.[citation needed] In the 1997 semi-final, he finished in third place.[citation needed]


The trial judge summed up the case by stating to the jury that the tapes and Whitehurst were the two pieces of "direct evidence" offered by the prosecution before adding that, "coincidences happen".[citation needed]

After three days of deliberation and after a jury member being removed by the judge, the jury foreman informed the judge that by majority they considered Ingram and Tecwen to be guilty but Diana not. The judge informed the jury that since it was the prosecution's sole case that all three co-defendants had conspired and that Diana was pivotal, this was not a possible outcome. The jury retired once again and emerged some twenty minutes later saying that they now considered her guilty as well.[citation needed]

On the day of the verdict the judge sentenced Ingram to a 20-month suspended prison sentence while Whittock and Diana Ingram both received 18-month suspended sentences.[citation needed]

Insurance fraud[edit]

In 2003, the Ingrams were in court again charged with further fraud offences. Charles Ingram was found guilty at Bournemouth Crown Court on 28 October of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception, and of a second charge of deception by attempting to claim on an insurance policy following an alleged burglary at their home. Ingram had failed to tell Direct Line Insurance about claims he had made in the three years before he took the policy in July 2001. The court was told that Ingram had been a "habitual claimant" with Norwich Union after suffering "unfortunate" losses of private possessions.[25] He made seven claims on his home contents insurance between 1991 and 1997, pre-dating his appearance on Millionaire. These included £1,600 for a stolen handbag, £430 for a lost ring and £42 for a broken duck ornament.

Christopher Parker, prosecuting, said Ingram switched insurers to Zurich in 1997 when Norwich Union reduced a burglary claim from £19,000 to £9,000 and in 2000 switched again to Direct Line. "He has been ineluctably dishonest," Mr Parker said. "He went to Direct Line and didn't make a disclosure about his claims history because he knew he wouldn't have been insured. It might not have started off as the most monstrous piece of villainy but these things tend to snowball and it all came to a sticky end when he claimed for £30,000." Staff at Direct Line were already "suspicious" about Ingram's £30,000 burglary claim but decided to investigate only after reading newspaper coverage about his questionable win on the game show.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Ingram lives in Bradford, with his wife, Diana, and their three daughters. Ingram and his wife were declared bankrupt in November 2004[27] and November 2005 respectively.[citation needed]

Since leaving the Army, Ingram has written two novels: The Network, published on 27 April 2006, and Deep Siege, published on 8 October 2007.[28] He also repairs computers for a living, as well as assisting his wife with her handmade jewellery business.[29]

In September 2010 Ingram slipped on a rotten apple while mowing the lawn and sliced off three of his toes.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Millionaire cheat Ingram and his wife 'are abused every day'". Daily Mail. London. 14 April 2007. 
  2. ^ "No. 50733". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 December 1986. p. 15537. 
  3. ^ "No. 52131". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 May 1990. p. 8819. 
  4. ^ "No. 54173". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 October 1995. pp. 13315–13316. 
  5. ^ "No. 57069". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 September 2003. p. 12055. 
  6. ^ "Millionaire cheat sacked by Army". BBC News. BBC. 24 July 2003. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  7. ^ "Major Charles Ingram has been found guilty of cheating his way to the top prize on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire". BBC News. 7 April 2003. Retrieved 13 May 2008. 
  8. ^ Martin Bashir (2003). Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Major Fraud (Television). London, England: ITV. 
  9. ^ a b c "That Time a Guy Won 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?' by Cheating Terribly". Vice. 2016-09-09. Retrieved 2018-07-05. 
  10. ^ a b Mcveigh, Karen (13 March 2003). "Quizmaster 'amazed' to hear £1m winner could have cheated". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Retrieved 13 May 2008. 
  11. ^ "Millionaire winner 'unhappy'". BBC News. 10 March 2003. Retrieved 13 May 2008. 
  12. ^ "BBC NEWS - UK - Millionaire cheat sacked by Army". 
  13. ^ "TV quiz cheat loses his appeal". BBC News. 19 May 2004. Retrieved 13 May 2008. 
  14. ^ "Quiz cheat has defence costs cut". BBC News. 21 October 2004. Retrieved 13 May 2008. 
  15. ^ Ronson, Jon (17 July 2006). "Are the Millionaire three innocent?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 17 August 2014. 
  16. ^ "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire's Coughing Major won't cough up! Game show cheat let off £15,000 fine - but taxpayer foots £8MILLION legal bills". Daily Mail. 5 March 2016. 
  17. ^ "Quiz". Chichester Festival Theatre. Retrieved 18 November 2017. 
  18. ^ "Quiz the Play by James Graham | Official West End Website". 2018-04-12. Retrieved 2018-04-12. 
  19. ^ "Contestant 'spotted Millionaire coughs'". BBC News. 11 March 2003. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  20. ^ "So I phoned a friend – part two". The Guardian. London. 19 April 2003. Retrieved 13 May 2008. 
  21. ^ a b c Innes, John (7 March 2003). "Pager plot too risky for TV quiz". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2008. 
  22. ^ "Cheating 'silly' says Millionaire accused". BBC News. 26 March 2003. Retrieved 13 May 2008. 
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 October 2004. Retrieved 26 September 2004. 
  24. ^ Innes, John (26 March 2003). "Lecturer a serial quiz show failure, court is told". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 18 April 2003. Retrieved 13 May 2008. 
  25. ^ The Telegraph 29 Oct 03
  26. ^ Woolcock, By Nicola. "'Millionaire' quiz cheat guilty of insurance fraud". 
  27. ^ "Game show cheat Ingram bankrupt". BBC News. 8 December 2004. Retrieved 13 May 2008. 
  28. ^ "Deep Siege by Charles Ingram". Fantastic Fiction. 8 October 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  29. ^ Salkeld, Luke (14 November 2011). "The Coughing Major and his new venture selling handmade necklaces". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  30. ^ "Charles Ingram loses three toes in freak gardening accident". Metro. 16 September 2010. 

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