Who Wants to be a Millionaire Coughing Scandal
The 10th of September 2003 AD
The television programme Who Wants to be a Millionaire? was first shown on ITV on September 4 1998, and had been a smash hit from the start, its simple format and huge potential prizes building big audience numbers. It took, however, until November 20 2000 for the first £1M winner, Judith Keppel to come along. A second, David Edwards, raked in the big prize the following April. Then on September 10 2001 it seemed a third contestant had scooped the jackpot. But rather than pocketing the seven figure sum, Major Charles Ingram ended up with a conviction for deception, bankrupt, and eventually forced to resign from the army.
Ingram from Easterton near Devizes was convicted along with his wife Diana and a third person, Pontypridd lecturer Tecwen Whittock, of having used coughs as signals to the Major that certain answers were the correct ones. Aspects of the case and trial give pause for thought, however: though some coughs coincided with the correct answers there were far more coughs than questions; according to Ingram the company which provided the all-important tapes of the broadcast to the court did not hand them over to the police at once; and the jury originally concluded Mrs Ingram was not guilty, but as the three were co-defendants it was ordered to reconsider by the judge and changed its view within just 20 minutes.
Coughing conspiracy or coincidence? The jury decided on the former. Others may still wonder, though Charles Ingram’s subsequent conviction for insurance fraud did not help his cause.
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