Guilty: trio who cheated their way to a million

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Jeevan Vasagar
Tuesday April 8, 2003
The Guardian (© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003)


An army major, his wife and a college lecturer were found yesterday of attempting to cheat on the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Major Charles Ingram and his wife Diana, both 39, were by majority verdicts along with a college lecturer, Tecwen Whittock, 53, after the three came up with a to defraud the quiz show of £1m.

As the army officer sat in the hotseat on the , the lecturer was 10ft behind him and coughed to steer him towards the answers. The major's wife, who rang Whittock repeatedly in the run-up to the recording, was the point of contact the two.
The major was given a cheque for £1m but it was stopped after the show's makers, Celador, became and contacted police.

All three were spared prison because the Ingrams have young children, but they hefty fines.

Judge Geoffrey Rivlin said: "I'm not at all sure it was sheer greed that motivated this .

"I'm sure that all three of you were besotted with quiz programmes and ambitious to be on a major TV show.

"It was this that caused you to wonder whether you could beat and - it has to be said - cheat the system."

What the judge described as the "shabby schoolboy trick" of to mark the right answers was more successful than they could have hoped for.

But their win quickly turned "when you realised you had gone too far".
The three were not jailed because the Ingrams have three young daughters, aged 12, 10 and seven.

Southwark crown court was told by Major Ingram's barrister that their eldest daughter, Portia, who is dyslexic, has suffered panic attacks because of the trial while their 10-year-old girl, Rose, who has a disability affecting her speech, has been by other children about her parents going to prison.

Before passing sentence, the judge said: "There is no way I am going to deprive these children of their parents."

The Ingrams, of Easterton, Wiltshire, were to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years, and each fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs.
Whittock, head of business studies at Pontypridd further education college, was sentenced to 12 months in prison, also for two years, and was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £7,500 in costs.

Celador production staff became suspicious as the show was being , on September 10 2001, but the show's quizmaster, Chris Tarrant, last night said he had failed to spot the cheating. Accusing the trio of "cynicism and greed", Tarrant said in a statement: "It is unthinkable that anyone should come on the show and think they could go home with the biggest prize of all dishonestly."

Footage from the show will now be for the first time after Celador collaborated with Tonight with Trevor McDonald to produce a documentary which will be screened later this month.

The army has launched an into whether the major, who has served with the Royal Engineers in Bosnia and Northern Ireland, can continue to serve.

In a statement, solicitors for the Ingrams said the couple were "devastated" and considering an . Whittock's solicitor said his client was also considering appealing.

Amid speculation over which newspaper or TV programme would carry the first interview with the Ingrams and Whittock, the judge them against making public appearances in which they they had a right to the £1m.

"You might be well advised to thank your stars you are not going to prison today, and put aside any childish shows of bravado that you are entitled to this money," he said.