Charles William Ingram (born 6 August 1963) is a former British Army major who made headlines worldwide after being convicted of cheating to win the one million pounds jackpot on the game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? in 2001. He was convicted on a single count of deception.
He is married to Diana Ingram (born 1965) and has since participated in other television shows, including Weakest Link (where he appeared with his wife Diana, lasting until the sixth round), Wife Swap (in which he swapped lives with Jade Goody's boyfriend) and Hell's Kitchen and controversially on Big Brother's Big Mouth.
Education and career
Born in Shardlow, Derbyshire, Ingram attended to Oswestry School and obtained a BSc 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, membership of the Association for Project Management, and membership of the Society of Authors. He joined Mensa in January 2003, three months before the court case. In 1986, he trained for the Army at Sandhurst and was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Engineers. He was promoted to the rank of captain in 1990 and major in 1995, 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, and give up his rank of major.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? scandal
|£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|
The ITV programme was produced by Celador at Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. The show, jointly owned by ITV and Celador, and hosted by Chris Tarrant, was recorded on 9 September and 10 September 2001. After winning £1,000,000, the payout was suspended when Ingram was accused of cheating by having his wife, Diana, and an accomplice, Tecwen Whittock, cough as Ingram announced the correct answer from the available choices. 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.
Diana Ingram had previously been a contestant and won £32,000. Her brother Adrian Pollock had also previously won the same amount. Both Diana Ingram and her brother had missed their £64,000 questions (the latter had used his 50:50 lifeline on his question).
On 7 April 2003, 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, also suspended), 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.
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. 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. 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".
An essay written by James Plaskett in favour of the innocence of Ingram, his wife and Whittock led to the journalist Bob Woffinden, who had a longtime interest in miscarriages of justice, publishing a two-page article in the 9 October 2004 edition of the Daily Mail, entitled "Is The Coughing Major Innocent?" Plaskett's essay also prompted a reconsideration of the case in The Guardian Comment Is Free blog on 17 July 2006 from an initially sceptical Jon Ronson. In 2010 Plaskett may also be heard at Episode 29 of The Pod Delusion podcast.
A book, Bad Show: The Quiz, The Cough, The Millionaire Major by Bob Woffinden and James Plaskett was published in January 2015. Previewed by the Daily Mail on 17 January 2015 under the headline 'Was the coughing Major INNOCENT?', the book is said to reveal new evidence that casts doubt on the conviction.
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.
Testimony of Larry Whitehurst
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. 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 in the right answer, Whitehurst had them red handed.
Testimony of Tecwen Whittock
Whittock claims to have suffered a persistent cough for his entire life 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. 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. Whittock later testified that he drank several glasses of water before he went in front of the cameras. 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.
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".
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. 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. In the 1997 semi-final, he could only manage third place and the heat was easily won by Daphne Fowler.
After the show
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, saying that "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."
A member of the crew, Eve Winstanley, testified in court that Ingram seemed very "unhappy" for someone who had just won a million pounds.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
Insurance Fraud Conviction
Two years later, the Ingrams were in court again for 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. 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.
Ingram currently lives in Easterton, Wiltshire, with his wife, Diana, and their three daughters. After leaving the Army, Ingram embarked on a career as a novelist. He has written two novels to date; The Network, published on 27 April 2006, and Deep Siege, published on 8 October 2007. He also repairs computers for a living, as well as assisting his wife with her handmade jewellery business.
Ingram and his wife were declared bankrupt in November 2004 and November 2005 respectively.