The Ingrams Millionaire Trial
7 April, 2003: Over the past four weeks, Southwark Court has been the home to one of the most curious trials of past few years. Three people - Charles Ingram, Diana Ingram, and Tecwen Whittock - have been convicted of conspiracy to obtain a valuable security by deception. The "valuable security" in question is a cheque for £1,000,000, signed by Chris Tarrant, and won on the hit ITV show WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE. In this exhaustive review of the trial, we examine the evidence that led to the conviction, and re-create the extraordinary chain of events that culminated in the fake million pound moment.
This column draws heavily on Press Association reports, as presented in BBC News, the Daily Record, The Guardian, The Independent, the Welsh Daily Post, and a tip from James Sorrie. All errors of fact and interpretation are those of the author.
(a) The allegation
Nicholas Hilliard led the prosecution. "Put simply, the allegation is that Mr Ingram cheated his way towards winning £1m on that quiz show, and that also involved in the dishonest scheme were his wife, Diana, and a third defendant, Tecwen Whittock."
"Obviously, one way of increasing your chances of winning would be if you could set up some form of signal from someone else. If they knew the answer and could signal it to you, the contestant, by some means, that would obviously be a great help."
What ingenious scheme did Mr Hilliard suggest had been used? Someone would sound one or more coughs when the contestant is reading out or talking about the correct answer.
And, er, that's it.
To test this theory, the jury was shown the tape of the unaired show, during which a cough can clearly be heard during the correct answer. (A full transcript is elsewhere in this report.)
(b) Previous contact
The prosecution claimed that the Ingrams and Mr Whittock had been in contact by phone on a regular basis for several months before Ingram's winning show, but they ignored each other at the studio on September 10, the second day Ingram was in the chair. Both men denied having met or spoken to each other.
In the prosecution case: "Before September 10, if there had been prior contact between the three of them, then you might expect that there might have been some contact between them when all together at the studio. Ordinarily, you might expect them to have sought each other out. Unless, of course, for some reason, the Ingrams and Mr Whittock did not want to be seen together."
The court saw evidence of telephone contact between Mr Whittock and the Ingrams' home telephone, Diana Ingram's mobile phone and the telephone of Adrian Pollock, her brother.
There had been sketchy plans to use four pagers, set to vibrate mode, secreted about Mr Ingram's body. Messages were sent up to the night before Mr Ingram's first appearance.
Were the Ingrams practising a scheme on September 9 to cheat, even if they discarded it in the event as too risky to use or discarded [it] for some other reason, and then simply used the coughing method on the 10th on the show Mr Whittock was going to be in the studio? There's no evidence that such a scheme was actually used on either occasion when Mr Ingram was in the hot seat."
Mrs Ingram told police when questioned that she used the pagers to contact her brothers, Marcus Powell and Adrian Pollock. But Mr Hilliard pointed out Mr Powell was in the studio on the night of September 9 and would not have needed to be contacted in that way.
Police later determined that pagers would not emit RF interference detected by sound engineers, even when they were receiving a message.
On Sunday September 9, hours after Mr Ingram had finished his first day of questioning, a call was made at 2302 from Diana Ingram's mobile to Mr Whittock's daughter's phone, which Mr Whittock accepted he was using at the time. The Ingrams had heard that Mr Whittock would be a contestant on the next show.
On September 10, at 0925, a call was made from Mr Whittock's daughter's phone to the Ingrams at home, and about three hours later, a call was returned from Mrs Ingram's mobile.
There was no contact after the show.
(c) In the hot seat
Fellow contestant Graham Whitehurst was sitting on the other side of the studio from Mr Whittock, in the last Fastest Finger seat. By the time Chris posed the jackpot question he was sure Mr Whittock and Mr Ingram were colluding.
"So I was leaning forward glaring at Mr Whittock saying 'don't you dare, don't you dare'. I can remember that precise feeling."
"I was listening out for Googol and thinking as soon as the major says Googol what was Mr Whittock going to do. So I was waiting. I was absolutely certain there was going to be a signal by coughing."
"He seemed to dismiss Googol initially and he went all round the houses as he had done through the show, and as soon as he got to Googol Tecwen Whittock went 'cough, cough'."
Nicholas Hilliard: "Are you sure that it was Tecwen Whittock who coughed when Mr Ingram mentioned the option Googol?"
Mr Whitehurst: "I am 100% sure. I was studying him. I was fixed on Tecwen Whittock to see what he would do at that point, as soon as the word Googol was mentioned."
Between Mr Whitehurst and Mr Whittock was host Chris Tarrant. In evidence, he told of his "elation" at the big win. Mr Tarrant left the studio "fairly elated, because it was a very exciting and extraordinary programme." After the officer left the set with the cheque, Tarrant visited him in his dressing room and told him: "Congratulations, fantastic." He returned later, "once recording for the night had been finished", to spend a little more time with Major Ingram and his wife.
Nicholas Hilliard, prosecuting, asked: "So far as the atmosphere then was concerned, did you detect anything untoward?"
"Not from them. No, not at all. They seemed as normal as people who had just won £1m would be in that situation," Tarrant replied.
Mr Tarrant was asked whether he noticed any coughing during the major's appearance.
"Not specifically, because there is just so much going on at the time, loud applause... extraordinary behaviour, exciting behaviour, very hard to follow behaviour. When you get to that sort of money, I am very focused, there was an awful lot going on," he told the prosecutor.
Tarrant went on to explain that while he had a lot of information on a screen in front of him, including the question and the four possible answers, he had no indication which answer was correct.
"Only when we get to the specific moment, 'Final answer', at that point on my screen, a very small signal comes up whether they are right or not, and that is when I am absolutely certain whether that is the right answer."
Tarrant told the court he was "very aware" of the need not to give anything away that might help a contestant.
"I have developed a strange, impassioned face that hopefully does not give them a clue to whether they are right or wrong. I cannot do that. But sometimes, I am saying to myself: 'Please, please give me the right answer'."
"When the money gets up to serious amounts, and certainly when you get up to £64,000 and up to £1m, it is absolutely essential. I am very, very aware exactly what I am thinking."
(d) Tracing the cough
Floor manager Philip Davies said that there's always some coughing during a recording, but it's usually sporadic and irregular, and the cougher attempts to stifle their harrumphs. Uncontrolled coughing is frequent; that during the recording was occasional, and coincident with Mr Ingram reading out answers
Sound supervisor Kevin Duff spoke about the various coughs that had been recorded at the time. He noted 19 coughs made near a live microphone. In his view, they came from one of the "fastest finger" microphones.
"Tests have shown - because various signals have been looked at and they are stronger on one side or the other - that they come from one of the fastest finger contestants who was on the left side... in seats one to five," said Mr Hilliard.
"That narrows the field a bit. Mr Whittock was one of those - he was at seat number three. Mr Whittock admits that he had a cough at the time and a number of people in the audience noticed it. You can make your minds up as... to whether Mr Ingram noticed these particular coughs."
Dr John French, a leading sound analyst, said that the same - male - person was responsible for all the misleading harrumphs. Not all 192 coughs came from the same person, but 36 came from Mr Whittock's side of the studio, including the nineteen most suspicious and leading coughs.
After the show taped, Mr Ingram was "politely surprised" to hear that the cheque had been stopped. The news, broken by Celador's MD Paul Smith, was put down to "irregularities" into his appearance.
Mr Smith had earlier been called away from a recording of THE WAITING GAME to review the tapes of Mr Ingram's performance with sound supervisor Kevin Duff. The whole Celador team watched the tapes the following afternoon, and contacted the police afterwards.
Celador's supervising executive producer Rob Taylor took the unusual step of searching the Ingrams after the show. He was still concerned to make sure "they were treated nicely and gently." "I arranged to see them later with some champagne in their dressing room," he said, but found the atmosphere unusual.
Researcher Eva Winstanley agreed: "There wasn't any real emotion. They didn't seem happy. Mrs Ingram seemed a little bit agitated. Mr Ingram seemed a little bit tense."
When Ms Winstanley offered the couple a drink, Mr Ingram declined, saying that he was going back to work the next day. The researcher and Mrs Ingram expressed surprise.
"My words were something like, 'work - tomorrow?' I wouldn't expect anyone to go back to work if they had just won £1m. He didn't seem very impressed with our response. He raised his voice, raised his arms up in the air, and said, 'don't start', and 'I've got things to do - you don't understand'. He wasn't looking at Mrs Ingram or myself, he was looking at the wall.
"I mentioned that the PR manager would have to come and have a chat with him about what would happen from there. Mr Ingram said that he didn't want to see anyone, he just wanted to be left alone."
After Ms Winstanley left, the window of their dressing room was slammed shut and she heard "raised voices - but I couldn't hear what was being said."
Lisa Telford was another researcher. She spoke of how the couple's mood swung in the time it took her to get a pint of bitter and a cigar for Mr Ingram and a glass of red wine for his wife. "The atmosphere in the room had changed. Previously when I came it was obvious they were shocked. When I came in a second time they weren't happy and they were dismissive of me."
Speaking in his defence, Mr Ingram denied this row took place, and said the allegations had "ruined his life." Mr Ingram said he had known all but one of the answers, relying on his maths and physics A-levels to take a brave gamble on the Million Pound question.
Mr Ingram said he had drawn from his military training, and the army's lack of resources, to reach the million. "That meant taking calculated risks, weighing up the answers, and taking account of the risks just as I'd have to do in the army. You never have enough resources in the army. You decide to limit the risks to achieve the mission. That is exactly what I did that night."
"I looked at each of the answers, tried as best I could to delete answers that were too ridiculous and weigh up the options on the remaining answers and if I felt 80% confident or more on a particular answer, I would go for it."
The police challenged him about this, saying he had taken a blind guess on question 10, for £32,000. A gasp from the audience led him to the right answer.
In a police interview read to the court, the major told investigating officer Detective Sergeant Ian Williamson: "All I can do is look you in the eye and tell you I did not cheat on that show. If anyone had come to me with a suggestion of cheating on that show, I would have said no.
"I did not use coughing in any shape or form as a method of cheating on that show. I did not, when I was sitting on that show, focus on coughing. I do not recall hearing or taking notice of coughing. I wanted to get to £1m million to the best of my ability."
"What I was trying to do was buy time, think through the answers to whether I could get to a confident level where I could take a risk. If I was just quiet, it would not come across as very good television, which I just wanted it to be," Major Ingram said.
He said he had been "devastated" when he learned, a month after the show, that his wife had regularly been telephoning Mr Whittock.
The court heard he told officers: "I think it is bad news because it looks dreadful. It looks as if I was using coughing during the show and it looks as if there was some sort of link, innuendo, that we knew him. It looks as if we planned something and he deliberately coughed to give us the answers, which did not happen."
On the stand, the prosecution raised the spectre of Mr Ingram's personal debts, standing at about £50,000 when he sat down with Mr Tarrant in September 2001.
Mr Ingram said that he had been on medication, and disclosed that he had been the subject of some personal abuse. His cat has been shot at, people drove past shouting, "cheat," and his car has been vandalised.
Mr Ingram believed that Chris Tarrant had been willing him on to do well, and put down his success to a mixture of alertness and caution. "I made a conscious decision to make sure I understood the question clearly and to look at all four answers to ensure I didn't make a mistake."
Character witnesses appeared for both Ingrams. The major's former commanding officer in Bosnia, Colonel Michael Paul Carter, described the major as a "good friend."
"I consider him to be an officer of the utmost integrity and complete honesty," he said.
A close friend of Mrs Ingram, former schoolmate Sophie Athanasiadis, said she would trust the mother-of-three "with anything, whether it was moral, financial, whatever the situation."
She added that Mrs Ingram was a "completely straightforward person, very, very honest," and "I can say without a shadow of doubt that there is no wiliness, no deceit, in her."
In her own defence, Diana Ingram said that Charles had reached the jackpot by "taking risks." She said that the strategy had been to reach £32,000 - by guesswork if needed.
"When he reached £500,000 I thought 'that is absolutely fine' - even £250,000 [would have been] fine. If I had been sitting there - and then the £1m question came up. I don't think I could have answered it even if they had said: 'What is your name?' It was incredibly nerve-racking, probably worse watching than playing.
"Then he said he was going to play when he saw the answers come up and considered it. I couldn't believe he was going to risk it. I don't know. I think I would have had to have a several-hour discussion about how sure he was about the answer or not. My own feeling is that I would not have played that. But I don't like to take risks like he does."
Mrs Ingram was quizzed about her use of pagers. For the prosecution, Mr Hilliard: "You and your husband were using these pagers ... to practise a fraud in the show." Mrs Ingram said that was not true.
The barrister then suggested the pagers represented the four possible answers contestants could choose from after each question. "No."
"They communicated information either to your husband in the hot seat or somebody in the audience so they could help." "No, that is not true."
"For some reason, I suggest, you abandoned that." "No."
Mr Hilliard then suggested the couple resorted to the coughing ploy after learning Whittock was to be a Fastest Finger First hopeful the same day her husband was to return as a roll-over contestant. "Most definitely not."
She said her husband had not made a single call to any of the pagers, and she had used them after her brothers, Adrian Powell and Marcus Pollock, had to "disappear" during summer 2001, and would not even answer their mobile phones.
"Adrian owed a lot of money to various people as I understand it. I think he had people invest in his company and things had gone wrong and I think there was some problem with the Internet or the bank or something."
"What problem did you understand there was with the Internet and the bank?" "I understood he had somehow procured some money from a bank unlawfully."
"You mean he stole it?" "I assume so."
Mrs Ingram told the jury that although she "didn't know the details," the fact remained her brothers decided to make themselves scarce.
Asked to explain numerous calls to them on the eve of her husband's first appearance on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, Mrs Ingram said she understood some of the pagers were faulty and this was her way of ensuring they knew she wanted one of them to contact her. Unfortunately, she had never been aware you could send text messages on pagers.
Mr Hilliard then inquired why, at one point during the evening, she had used a variety of telephones: "Your land line at home at 18.03, your mother's mobile at 18.04, the land line again also at 18.04, your mother's mobile at 18.05 and then back to your land line."
Mrs Ingram: "Well, no not really, I just did."
The barrister then suggested that in reality they had the pagers at home and were simply "practising" to find out which message arrived first - one from a landline or one from a mobile.
"No, that is not the case," she insisted.
She also said that Tecwen Whittock had contacted Mr Powell, and discussed their chances of appearing on the show. Mrs Ingram took up the conversation when Mr Powell left the country.
Mrs Ingram said that despite having already written a book about MILLIONAIRE, she did not suspect anything was amiss when programme staff searched her and her husband as they left the set.
"I suggest you were rather rattled, you and your husband, when they searched you," said Nicholas Hilliard, prosecuting. "I think Charles thought it was a bit odd. But I accepted it as normal."
"You thought your husband had made it too obvious."
"There was nothing to make obvious."
The strange case of the brothers
Mrs Ingram's brother Marcus Powell arrived to watch the show on September 10, but asked to be seated in a VIP "spillover" area because he was "camera shy." Mr Powell had been in the audience previously when Mrs Ingram's other brother, Adrian Pollock, appeared on the show.
A producer noticed Mr Powell outside the studio, using a mobile phone, told him this was not allowed and asked him to go back inside. Twice more he was seen to go outside with his mobile phone in his hand.
The floor manager made an announcement asking all phones to be switched off. The sound supervisor could detect phones in the main audience section, even when they were not being used. Those in the overspill area would not be detected by the sound team, and would have to be observed in person.
Mr Norman told how Mr Powell first arrived at 2pm but was turned away. After being told to arrive for 6.30pm, Mr Powell returned to the security gate at 4pm. Mr Norman said: "He said that he had got permission to see the Ingrams and so I telephoned a member of staff.
"She gave me short shrift and said I could not let him in. I told him he could not come in and he was not happy at all. I just said: 'I'm very sorry, you are on the guest list - just return for this evening's show but you are not allowed in at this moment'.
"He was annoyed and tried to find every other way to get somebody else to get him in."
Once Mr Powell got into the studio, Mr Norman said he was asked by a member of staff to keep an eye on him. In particular, they were concerned that Mr Powell might be using a mobile phone. Mr Norman said he saw Mr Powell "look at the screen" of his phone for a few seconds before putting it back into his pocket.
We reported last year that Adrian Pollock had been arrested during the course of this investigation. He has not been charged with anything, and we wish to make it clear that he is completely innocent of any complicity in this case.
Adrian Pollock was the managing director of an internet service provider called Buzzline. Based at a science park in Bridgend, the company offered a year's net access for £40, but failed to connect anyone on launch in May 2000. One of the admin staff of Buzzline signed emails as "Marcus." In May 2001, a number of the company's former subscribers had between £400 and £500 debited from their credit cards by a company based in a neighbouring town. One internet forum found that over £13,500 had been debited from their members alone.
The other player: Tecwen Whittock
The college lecturer never denied that the coughs came from his throat. When first interviewed, Mr Whittock blamed a dust allergy and coincidence for his coughing fit in the studio.
For the prosecution, Mr Hilliard: "He said he was innocently coughing at times because he had an irritable cough which worsened the longer he sat there. That was due to hayfever and an allergy to dust.
"No doubt, he does have an allergy, but there is no condition causing you to cough after someone has given the right answer to a question."
Asked in his interview why his cough had seemed to suddenly disappear, Whittock replied that he had taken advantage of a 10-minute gap between Ingram's £1 million success and his own appearance in the hot seat to drink several glasses of water.
The prosecution maintained that Mr Ingram was listening for a cough after he had mentioned one of the possible answers, and Mr Whittock knew that the coughs were repeated.
According to the prosecution, Mr Whittock had a five-figure credit card debt, and three children at a private school. "I would not do it. It would be against my morals. I am just a family man. I know that going [on the show] trying to steal £1m would land me in jail."
"It can only be a coincidence that my coughing correlated in any way with any answers given by the major," he told the police. Mr Whittock agreed he had been given a glass of water during Major Ingram's "hot seat" session, but that did not help. Some fresh air and several more glasses of water between winning the fastest finger round and his time in the hot seat did much to calm his throat.
During his police interview, Detective Sergeant Paul Demko asked Mr Whittock if he thought Mr Ingram had cheated his way to the top prize.
"Not as far as I know... I have said to people he is going to be bloody brave if he is going to sit in that chair and is going to distinguish between two to three people coughing, sitting there and knowing he has got the right cough. I sat there, I know I coughed and I think other people coughed and I don't think he did it."
Asked what he thought of Mr Ingram's performance, Mr Whittock said:
"He struck me as being eccentric, talkative, one of those people who was obviously enjoying being in the hot seat, enjoying talking to Chris Tarrant, rather than someone like me who would just answer the question. He seemed to be confident, articulate, but going round the houses as if he was messing around - is it this one or is it that one. We were sort of thinking, 'God, he's going on a bit. Why doesn't he get a move on?'"
The jury was told a prepared statement was found in a police raid on Mr Whittock's home. In it, he said: "I did not help him to answer any questions by using coughing as a signal. I was innocently coughing at times because I had an irritable cough, which worsened the longer I sat there."
A police search of his home turned up a hand-written general knowledge book, containing some information that Mr Whittock claimed he did not know.
While on the stand, Mr Whittock described himself as an "anorak," and recalled a number of TV and radio programmes where his performance had been less than dazzling. Sale of the Century, Brain of Britain, Fifteen-To-One and The People Versus saw him respectively come away with a booby prize, fall in the second round, exit after getting his first two answers wrong and finally lose half his winnings.
His barrister, David Aubrey QC, began with a string of rapid-fire questions.
"Were you in any way involved in a plan to help Mr Ingram cheat his way to £1 million?" "Definitely not."
"Do you accept during the recording of the programme on September 10, 2001 you were coughing and coughing repeatedly?" "Yes."
"Were any of these coughs intended to act as a signal to Major Ingram?" "None at all."
"Were any of them in any way intended to help him or to give him any hint as to the correct answer to any question?" "Not at all. I did not do that, I would not do that ... It would be against my morals, of all that I have gone through. I am just a family person ... I know that going there and trying to steal £1 million - because that is what it is - is going to land me up in jail. I am aware of that and I would just not do it."
His wife Gillian had been badly affected. "She is particularly stressed over it, to such an extent she just can't come to the court, sit in the public gallery and watch the proceedings. She doesn't read newspapers or anything. She just doesn't want to hear anything bad said about me, it just psyches her out. She knows I didn't do it and that is that."
During further questioning, he explained that he had suffered from a persistent cough for many years. At first he thought it was merely a combination of hayfever and rhinitus, or dust allergy. But then, he said, as he pulled a couple of inhalers from a pocket, he learnt he had asthma as well.
He explained that as he sat in one of the fastest finger first seats during the major's performance, it seemed as if there was a "frog in my throat." A drink of water would have been a "simple remedy" but unfortunately he did not get any until the 14th question - for £500,000.
Whittock told the court that after the Army officer had left the set with his jackpot cheque, he succeeded in getting into the hot seat. Before taking up his position in front of the cameras, he took a brief backstage break. He remembered that as the programme resumed, Mr Tarrant told him: "Don't forget to drink your water and use your lifelines."
Mr Aubrey asked Mr Whittock about his interest in the show. The lecturer explained that like a lot of other people he had become smitten by the TV quiz. "Everyone at work was talking about it," he said. After watching the programme regularly for several months he realised one contestant, Adrian Pollock, who turned out to be one of Diana Ingram's brothers, had crowned four appearances with a £32,000 win. "I thought, how can this be, how can this man get on four times," he recalled.
He said he tracked down Mr Pollock to a south Wales village from the electoral roll and turned up at his home unannounced asking him if he "fancied a pint."
Mr Pollock was happy to pass on his tips on getting on to the show via calls to a premium rate phone line. They included such subjects as using a neutral voice to answer qualifying questions, and how to ensure success when it came to the Fastest Finger round.
Mr Aubrey: "The kind of debates that anoraks are involved with?" "Yes," replied the lecturer, who admitted he read the Sun newspaper's Bizarre column as part of his training for the show, before adding: "I have a big anorak."
He went on to tell the jury that after Mr Pollock left the country on business, his mentor put him in touch with Mrs Ingram, another £32,000 winner, for continued coaching. "But what I did with Adrian Pollock and Diana Ingram was perfectly innocent," he insisted.
"The truth is I have only ever spoken to Diana Ingram. I think we exchanged a few telephone calls, but I never met her. I did not even know her husband was a major. Honestly, I have never spoken to the guy. My relationship with Adrian Pollock and Diana Ingram was totally innocent, a shared common interest in that quiz."
Mr Whittock claimed his innocence of the charges, pointing out that criminal behaviour, such as using uncoded coughs, carried a strong probability of getting caught. "It would have been a very silly thing to do."
Under cross-examination, Mr Whittock agreed he had appeared on the show in April 2001, just a few days after Mrs Ingram had won £32,000. He denied he had tried to get on the same show as the co-defendant. He also denied deliberately evading the Ingrams on September 10, saying, "I was not interested in anybody else. I was trying to psych myself up. I was in a state of mind, lost in my own thoughts."
He said the case against him was like someone who would only choose the favourite flavours from a confectionery display but ignore the unwanted "coffee creams." During counsel Nicholas Hilliard's cross-examination of him, he said: "You are picking out what you want. It is like a box of chocolates."
Further words in Mr Whittock's defence came from Alan Morris, a professor in coughing. He said that Mr Whittock's coughs were consistent with "cough variant asthma," which would have been exacerbated by dust and the heat of the television studio. It would be calmed down by intense concentration, such as when one is in the middle of the studio. A juror experiencing a coughing fit briefly interrupted Professor Morris's evidence.
Defence case and summing up
Charles Ingram was described as "honest, decent, and hardworking," and the theories put forward by the prosecution as "tenuous and unsafe." His QC cited Chris Tarrant's evidence that he hadn't heard any coughing.
Diana Ingram's QC countered the prosecution's dismissal of coincidence as an explanation by pointing out that she and Charles had married in the same church as David Williams, the Second Millionaire. She had spoken to Tecwen Whittock, but this is a long way from proving the vast plot.
Tecwen Whittock's lawyer questioned how Mr Ingram would have been able to tell his client's coughs from the others in the studio, and asserted that the videotape shown earlier had isolated microphones and did not accurately reflect what Mr Ingram heard. There was nothing suspicious about the lack of contact between Mr Whittock and Mrs Ingram after the win. "If the Major decided to keep all the money himself, what is Mr Whittock going to do? He is not going to issue a claim through the courts, or go to the police and say this man has not paid me my share of the money I helped him win by cheating."
The Judge's summing up was delayed a night because one juror had a vehement and uncontrollable fit of the coughs. Judge Geoffrey Rivlin said the Crown's stance was that Mr Ingram was a cheat who had used an accomplice's coughs to guide him to the jackpot. "He and his wife and Tecwen Whittock were fraudsters and the evidence placed before you in this case is clear for all to see. They say here was a fraud, a scam if ever there was one."
The three defendants had gone into the witness box to "strenuously deny any kind of dishonesty"; the Ingrams maintained the win was genuine, and the lecturer insisted he had not only suffered a persistent cough for many years, but that it had caused him considerable distress on the night of the show.
The question the jury had to decide was whether the major left the MILLIONAIRE set at Elstree as a "genuine millionaire or a fraudster." "Which was it?" the judge asked.
Extracted from the WWTBAM rules:
B2. Persons must not confer with others when answering questions [...] A Show Player must not leave the set unless told by the Company to do so.
B4. The Company may refuse to pay winnings or reclaim all sums paid to Show Players in the event of a reasonable suspicion of his/her fraud, dishonesty, or non-entitlement to participate in the Competition under the Rules.
B10. Notwithstanding a Contestant's participation in the Competition there is no obligation on the part of the Company or ITV to broadcast any Show in which he/she has taken part, or any or all of his contribution as recorded by the Company.
"Payment to Show Players will be sent by cheque within seven days of broadcast of the relevant Show." Would the inclusion of extracts of Mr Ingram's appearance on Celador's documentary void this defence?
"If the operation of the Competition [...] the recording; broadcast of any/all of the Shows [...] is prevented by reason of any actual, anticipated or alleged breach of any law or applicable regulations the Company may cancel all or any part of the Competition and Contestants shall have no claim upon the Company." Even if Mr Ingram had been acquitted, there would still be an alleged breach of law, even though it had not been proven in a court of law.
Would there have been such a long and detailed investigation had Mr Ingram "only" cheated to (say) £64,000?
Does Celador now have any claim on Mrs Ingram's and Mr Whittock's winnings?
What was the original plot?
Clearly, the coughing device was as unsubtle as a sledgehammer, and ultimately an unsuccessful idea. The prosecution case mentioned the acquisition and use of the pagers, but didn't dwell on them for any significant length of time.
It's this column's view that the Ingrams and Mr Whittock came up with three plans, and coughing at appropriate moments would be the last of them.
The following is speculation based on the evidence given in court.
Plan A involved the pagers. In the hot seat, Charles Ingram would hear each question, and either give the answer from his general knowledge, or stall for time.
Out in the spillover area, an accomplice could have sat with a mobile phone left connected to the outside world. The court heard how only security staff in the area could detect phones in this area, and it would not be impossible for someone to accidentally leave a phone powered on when they put it in their pocket, and for that action to cause the phone to dial.
At the other end of the line would be a second accomplice, who would have a few minutes to research the question, using books, their knowledge, and the internet. When they had finalised their answer, this second accomplice would send a message to one of the four pagers secreted around Mr Ingram's body. The pager would vibrate without causing interference to the microphones, and thus indicate the answer.
This is a cunning plan, but relies on technological gadgetry. A dodgy mobile phone battery, someone spotting the live connection, or a bit of trouble with the pagers, and the system fails. There's also the little matter of secreting four pagers about one's body - even with recent advancements in miniature technology, that's still a difficult task.
The prosecution believes that this was discarded before Mr Ingram entered the studio. It's quite possible that he deliberately threw the first two Fastest Finger questions, in order to avoid entering the hot seat much before the end of the show, and hence ensuring he would be a rollover contestant.
Plan B involved getting an accomplice into the studio as one of the contestants, and having that accomplice sit behind Chris Tarrant, and in the contestant's line of sight. It would then be a relatively simple task to work out a code of signals involving the upper body to indicate which was the correct answer. When Mr Whittock was confirmed as a contestant on the second show, there was a 50/50 chance that he would be sat in Mr Ingram's line of sight.
This plan depends on being able to see the members of Contestants' Row.
As it turned out, Mr Whittock was drawn immediately behind Mr Ingram, so Plan C, cough in the appropriate place, was drawn up.
That recording in full
The jury saw the unedited recording from the Sept 9 and 10 sessions. In the style of my UK Millionaire Recaps from 2000, this is what they saw...
FFF: The Agatha Christie novel: "Death", "On", "The", "Nile".
Winner, in 3.97 seconds, Charles Ingram! He's about 40, wearing a rugby shirt. He's a major in the army, and wants to buy a pony for his daughters. His wife Diana, and her brother Adrian Pollock, have both won £32,000 previously, so Charles is playing not only for the million, but also the family honour.
"To be honest, I will be happy to walk away with anything. If I can go away to work and hold my head up high, I will be happy. I will probably crash and burn, so we will see. The only thing I have done is read quite a lot of children's books."
£100: On which of these would you air laundry?
A - Clothes Dog
B - Clothes Horse
C - Clothes Rabbit
D - Clothes Pig
Clothes Horse is correct.
£200: What is the name given to a person against increasing the power of the European Union?
A - Eurosceptic
B - Eurostar
C - Eurotrash
D - Eurovision
£300: Butterscotch is a type of what?
A - Shortbread
B - Pavement game
C - Garden Flower
D - A brittle toffee
Yep, a brittle toffee. So far, so good.
£500: What is the nickname of a famous Scottish Army Regiment?
A - Black Cat
B - Black Widow
C - Black Sea
D - Black Watch
Well, that's a home question for an army major. D is correct.
£1,000: The Normans who invaded and conquered England in 1066 spoke which language?
A - German
B - Norwegian
C - French
D - Danish
French, or some vague approximation thereof. Phew, a thousand in the bank.
£2,000: In Coronation Street, who is Audrey's daughter?
A - Janice
B - Gail
C - Linda
D - Sally
Hmm. That's thrown a spoke into Charles' plans. Not so hot on the pop culture, perhaps. When in doubt, ask the audience. ITV question, ITV audience. 89% For Gail. This is your clue.
£4,000: The River Foyle is found in which part of the UK?
A - England
B - Scotland
C - Northern Ireland
D - Wales
Again, Charles is humming and hawing. Phone a friend, Sue Denim (the real identity of the friend has not been released,) who is convinced that it's Northern Ireland. Charles plays, and wins £4000.
---September 10 recording, September 18 transmission---
Back comes Charles Ingram, looks like he's in the same shirt as yesterday. Lucky? Smelly? You decide. He's in a more bullish mood tonight. "I have a strategy. I was a bit defensive on the last show and I started to talk myself out of answers that I should know. This time I'm going on a counter-attack. I'm going to be a bit more positive. I'm going to show a bit more self-commitment."
£8,000: Who was the second husband of Jacqueline Kennedy?
A - Adnan Khashoggi
B - Ronald Reagan
C - Aristotle Onassis
D - Rupert Murdoch
Looks like Charles' bombast will be unseated by the first question. I can't see him detaining us for too long tonight. He's very unsure of himself. Does the floor manager have any cough sweets, someone has a very tickly cough out there.
He's playing, he's playing Onassis...
...and he's right.
£16,000: Emmental is a cheese from which country?
A - France
B - Italy
C - Netherlands
D - Switzerland
No hesitation here, straight in to Switzerland. If you know the answers, they're easy, as someone keeps saying. Chris doesn't know what Charles' strategy - sorry, counter-strategy - is but he's doing well.
£32,000: Who had the hit UK album called Born To Do It, in 2000
A - Coldplay
B - Toploader
C - A1
D - Craig David
Pop culture is not Charles' strong point, so let's go 50/50:
C - A1
D - Craig David
A1 is offered as an answer. Audience, quiet as mice with your vocal cords removed, please. No gasping when he gives a dubious answer. Oh, you just did. Er, yeah. That would be a bit of a hint.
Charles is playing D, Craig David...
...and is now guaranteed £32,000. Calls for a stewards' enquiry, perhaps, but if it had been in the least dodgy, this would never have made it to air.
The Free Shot
£64,000: Gentlemen v Players was an annual match between amateurs and professionals in which sport?
A - Lawn Tennis
B - Rugby Union
C - Polo
D - Cricket
Cricket is Charles' first thought, but he's mulling it over a lot.
"I think it is cricket." Two coughs from the audience. "I think I have seen it printed on an old cigarette carton or on my grandfather's study wall. Maybe it was polo... It's less likely to be rugby union. I think I would take cricket."
Sorry, was that an answer? That was an answer, apparently. No one leaves the £64,000 question unanswered. Cricket is the answer. Cricket is the correct answer. Charles jumps up and shouts "yes!" Then "no more risks."
The Diamond Dozen
£125,000: The Ambassadors in the National Gallery is a painting by which artist?
A - Van Eyck
B - Holbein
C - Michelangelo
D - Rembrandt
Another long think, various cogitations, and a nasty cough coming from the audience again. This is the sixth time in seven questions that Charles has been in trouble. After much thought, Holbein looks to be the final answer, and it's right.
Looks like Charles is living by the skin of his teeth. He's able to pay off his mortgage now.
The Thirteen Club
£250,000: What type of garment is an Anthony Eden?
A - Overcoat
B - Hat
C - Shoe
D - Tie
I have no idea. Neither does anyone else. Charles said earlier that he would be a little aggressive, and go on the attack, but this is tricky. Charles is leaning towards hat. Is this going to be a gamble too far?
"I think it is a hat."
"Again I'm not sure. I think it is..."
"I am sure it is a hat. Am I sure?"
"Yes, hat, it's a hat."
Hat is the final answer. Hat is the correct answer. Does anyone have a glass of water for the audience?
£500,000: Baron Haussmann is best known for his planning for which city?
A - Rome
B - Paris
C - Berlin
D - Athens
Charles thinks it's Berlin. Haussmann is a more German name than Italian or Parisian or Greek, according to his reasoning. He's never sure. "If I was at home, I would be saying Berlin."
Another cough, and did that disguise the word "no"?
"I do not think it's Paris." Coughing continues. "I do not think it's Athens, I am sure it is not Rome. I would have thought it's Berlin but there's a chance it is Paris but I am not sure.
"Think, think, think! I know I have read this, I think it is Berlin, it could be Paris.
"I think it's Paris." Another harrumph.
"Yes, I am going to play."
Chris is confused. So is most of the audience. Charles has known exactly one answer off pat since reaching the thousand.
"I think it is Paris." Cough. "I am going to play Paris."
"You were convinced it was Berlin."
"I know. I think it's Paris."
"He thought it was Berlin. Berlin, Berlin. You changed your answer to Paris.
"That brought you £500,000. What a man! What a man. Quite an amazing man."
How is he doing this? For someone who doesn't seem to have settled, someone who hasn't been comfortable since we were playing for (mere) hundreds of pounds, suddenly Charles Ingram is facing:
£1,000,000: A number one followed by one hundred zeros is known by what name?
A - Googol
B - Megatron
C - Gigabit
D - Nanomole
"I'm not sure."
"Charles, you've not been sure since question number two!" Chris' hyperbole is not far off the mark. For the fifth question running, Charles is going to have a nice long think.
Charles initially thinks it's nanomole, or gigabit. "I don't think I can do this one. I do not think it is a megatron. I do not think I have heard of a googol." Hey, it's the phantom cough cougher.
"Googol, googol, googol. By a process of elimination I have to think it's a googol but I do not know what a googol is. I don't think it's a gigabit, nanomole, and I don't think it's a megatron. I really do think it's a googol."
Chris: "But you think it's a nanomole, you have never heard of a googol."
Charles: "It has to be a googol. It's my only chance for the million."
Chris: "It's also the only chance you will have to lose £468,000. You are going for the one you have never heard of."
Charles: "I don't mind taking the odd risk now and again." 'Scuse me, the *odd* risk? This gentleman has pretty much guessed all the way through the last ten questions.
Charles: "My strategy has been direct so far - take it by the bit and go for it. I've been very positive, I think. I do not think it's a gigabit, I do not think it's a nanomole or megatron. I am sure it's a googol." Cough.
Chris: "You lose £468,000 if you are wrong."
Charles: "No, it's a googol. God, is it a googol? Yes, it's a googol. Yes, yes, it's a googol."
Charles: "I am going to play. Googol."
Final answer? Final answer.
We'll take a break.
I suppose this is one way to win the million. Blind guesswork. Charles has guessed on seven questions, and - if he's correct here - at odds of... Let me work this out, six questions at four options, one at two, 2^13... At odds approaching 8,192 to one against, though substantially less if he could eliminate any options by inspection.
From time to time, blind guesswork will work. Is this the time?
Chris summarises the situation: "He initially went for nanomole, he then went through the various options again. He then went for googol because he had never heard of it and he had heard of the other three."
Guess what's coming.
"If you'd said megatron, you would have lost £468,000."
"If you'd said gigabit, you would [pause] have lost £468,000."
The moment of truth.
"If you had said nanomole [pause] you would have [another pause so large you could drive a truck through it] lost.."
"You've just won One Million Pounds!"
Diana comes down from the rafters, and Chris pays fulsome praise. "I have no idea how you got there, you went to hell and back out there. You are an amazing human being."
We hear Diana asking: "How the hell did you do it?"
Now we know.
That coughline in full
Dec 2000: Adrian Pollock wins £32,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? In the audience is brother Marcus Powell.
Apr 2001: Diana Ingram, Adrian's brother, also takes £32,000 from WWTBAM.
Sep 9, 2001: Major Charles Ingram films WWTBAM. He uses two lifelines in reaching £4000 before filming wraps.
Sep 10, 2001: Charles Ingram returns as the rollover contestant. Tecwen Whittock is also a contestant on this show. Helped by the harrumphs, Charles Ingram receives a cheque for £1 million, post-dated to the scheduled transmission date on Tuesday 18 Sept.
Sep 12, 2001: Buried deep on an inside page, the Daily Mail reports that Mr Ingram will win the top prize in an episode to be screened next Tuesday. "Major Ingram, 43 [sic], is said to have floundered on early questions and just managed to reach the £4,000 mark. But from there his answers swiftly clocked up the cash." [Subsequent reports confirm Ingram was 38 at the time of filming.]
Sep 15, 2001: Two-thirds of the way through the episode, host Chris Tarrant announces a "special edition" of WWTBAM. The show runs about 20 minutes longer than originally billed, though the weekend's extended news bulletins and a cancelled film mean the printed schedules bear no resemblance to reality anyway. On announcing the special, Tarrant has changed clothes, there's glitter on the floor, and he makes pointed references to "giving away *another* million pounds." Tecwen Whittock is first into the hot seat, reaches question 8, but leaves with just £1000.
Sep 20, 2001: The Sun splashes with the allegations. Celador Productions, makers of WWTBAM, have called in the police.
Sep 21, 2001: Mr Ingram launches legal proceedings to force payment of £1 million, plus costs and interest. This claim was put on hold while the criminal trial proceeded.
The BBC report of the case includes the following: "College lecturer Tecwen Whittock said he and several other audience members had innocently coughed during the major's £1m round."
Mr Whittock said he had coughed naturally and the noise could not have had anything to do with the alleged controversy surrounding the jackpot win. His cough was brought on by the cold studio and he added a number of audience members had been coughing during filming.
Mr Whittock said none of the contestants waiting in the audience had any interest in helping someone win the big prize.
"Yes, I did cough while the major was in the hot seat - but many other people in the studio did too," said the Pontypridd College lecturer.
"There were 200 people in there and it was quite cold. I heard many people coughing and can't believe the major could have been helped in such a way."
He added: "I certainly wasn't trying to help him. It wasn't in any of the contestants' interests to help him - we wanted him out so we could have our go."
The lecturer said he could not understand the intense speculation over "coughing clues."
"The first I knew something was wrong was when the producers called to say my episode had been brought forward.
"It would have been extremely difficult for him to distinguish his accomplice from all the different people coughing in the audience. But if what is being said is proved he should not be paid the prize because cheating is wrong."
Sep 29, 2001: Robert Brydges becomes the next person to win the jackpot on WWTBAM.
Oct 12, 2001: Host Chris Tarrant has been talking to the police about this case, reports The Sun.
Nov 30, 2001: Publishing date for Diana Ingram and Adrian Pollock's book, "Win A Million," by Blake at £5.99. By March 2003, Blake's website does not admit its existence, and Amazon has the book on 3-5 week delivery.
Nov 23, 2001: Charles and Diana Ingram, and Tecwen Whittock are arrested at their homes, and released on bail.
Apr 27, 2002: Adrian Pollock is arrested, but later eliminated from enquiries.
May 30, 2002: Mr Ingram arrested on charges of fraud, relating to a break in at his home in July 2001.
Jul 31, 2002: Mr Ingram, Mrs Ingram, Mr Whittock formally charged with deception and conspiracy. Prior to the trial, they make court appearances in August, October and January.
Mar 3, 2003: Case opens, and is adjourned for 48 hours.
Mar 7, 2003: After two days of evidence, jury is discharged and the case recommences.
Mar 31, 2003: Jurors are sent home early due to an outbreak of coughing.
Apr 3, 2003: One of the jurors is discharged due to an undisclosed "matter".
Apr 7, 2003: Verdicts returned.