The Quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was for years the most popular quiz show on TV. The show offered its contestants a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play for a life-changing jackpot victory of £1,000,000.
The show proved hugely popular both domestically and overseas, with the show expanding into multiple countries, making many millionaires in the process.
Yet for all of the joy, the show was not immune to controversy. The biggest storm arose in 2001, where contestant Charles Ingram won the million on the British version of the shw, only to be sensationally accused and then convicted of cheating.
While the show continued for many years following the 2001 furore, the episode cast a shadow on the show forever more. But to this day, many question whether or not Charles Ingram did actually cheat. We invite our readers to partake in our poll at the end of the article.
By 2001, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was in its prime, with millions of viewers tuning in every Saturday night to watch contestants attempt to win the incredible £1million top prize.
An episode in 2001 appeared no different to any of the hundreds before it, but it would go on to be infamous. Charles Ingram entered the show as a former Army Major.
Ingram made it into the hotseat having failed at 2 previous attempts at the fastest-finger first stage. His wife Diana and brother Adrian Pollock had both been on the show previously, both having won an impressive £32,000.
To say that his performance on the show was unusual and erratic would be putting it lightly. Ingram was a later contestant in the episode, and so he would return the next day to complete his personal effort.
Ingram limped to this point, having struggled significantly with the early questions – also the easiest. He had used two of his lifelines to get to the £4,000 question – which was a pretty poor effort to say the very least.
But Ingram returned for the next episode and seemed to have a change in fortunes. Despite seemingly being a no-hoper, Ingram went on to win the jackpot.
But the manner of Ingram’s victory seemed scarcely believable. Ingram would routinely change his answers to questions, despite seemingly being “sure” just a few seconds before that a different answer was correct.
Presenter Chris Tarrant could hardly believe what he was seeing, and was delighted as he presented a £1million cheque to Ingram. Tarrant later went and drank champagne in celebration with the Ingram’s. It seemed that against the odds, Ingram had pulled off a stunning turnaround to claim victory.
Did Charles Ingram Cheat on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
As mentioned, Ingram’s behaviour and answering style was erratic. It didn’t take long for suspicions to be raised. What lies below is the story that most believe to be true, though we are remaining neutral.
Unbeknownst to viewers at the time, Ingram was allegedly reacting to coughs from an accomplice. Tecwen Whittock was a university lecturer who was sitting on the sidelines with the other contestants, who were all primed to be the next into the hotseat following Ingram’s demise.
But unlike the other contestants, Whittock appeared to be acting in conjunction with Ingram, essentially “cheating” their way to victory. Ingram’s wife Diana was also implicated in the cheating storm, having also been accused of cheating.
The process was rather simple: After Tarrant had read out the question and possible answers, Ingram would read the answers aloud and wait for Whittock to cough when the correct answer was read aloud.
Sometimes this would extend to Ingram mentioning on multiple occasions the same answer. This was met with a cough from Whittock. On one occasion, he seemed to react to a cough from his wife Diana. You can see his full run in the below YouTube video.
Within days of Ingram’s victory, his payout was suspended in light of the cheating allegations. Tecwen Whittock was also hauled into criminal proceedings. Ingram, his wife Diana and Tecwen were charged with fraud.
The trio all denied the charge. Ingram and his wife denied the allegations and instead insisted that they had won the quiz show fairly. They disputed the suggestion that they had reacted to audience coughing.
Whittock also denied any wrongdoing. In his testimony, he suggested that he had suffered from a persistent cough his entire life. He attributed the fact that these coughs seemingly aligned with the correct answers as being a mere coincidence.
The prosecution, representing the game show, used evidence from 8 cameras that were filming on the night and 21 microphones. The producers of the show assembled a video tape to show jurors.
The court were told how 192 coughs were recorded during Ingram’s run on the show, with many of these coughs branded “significant”. Show presenter Chris Tarrant denied hearing any coughs, instead stating he was “too busy” to notice.
The testimony of Larry Whitehurst was also crucial to the prosecution. Whitehurst was another contestant on the show, and was sat a few chairs away from Whittock.
Whitehurst testified that he had detected a coughing pattern from Whittock, who he then watched closely during the final question. He believed that the duo had been cheating after noticing the supposed coughing process.
The Ingram’s and Whittock Convicted of Deception
At the conclusion of the evidence, the jury took three days to deliberate. They eventually returned with “guilty” verdicts for the three defendants. As a result, the Ingram’s were handed suspended two-year prison sentences, with Whittock given a suspended one-year sentence.
The prize money declared void, and the Ingram’s were forced to pay a total of £115,000 towards prosecution and defence costs. Whittock also faced legal fees. Appeals against the sentences were lodged, but were unsuccessful.Embed from Getty Images
What Happened to Charles Ingram?
Ingram was forced to resign from the Army. In later years, Ingram wrote two novels The Network and Deep Siege. He also made other TV appearances in the subsequent years.
Ingram has always maintained his innocence. Many support Ingram and believe that he was wrongly convicted. Others however believe that justice was served. Books, theatre performances and TV shows have since been released based on the episode.
Further legal proceedings on an unrelated charge of insurance fraud followed in 2003. The Ingram’s were found guilty of being “habitual claimants” by insurer Norwich Union, while they also claimed money based on an alleged burglary at the family home.
These events all happened before the show, but legal proceedings followed after Ingram’s travails on the TV show became known to the insurance companies, who then investigated past dealings with Ingram.
So, the million-dollar question of sorts for this article – was Charles Ingram cheating along with his wife Diana and Tecwen Whittock, or did he rightfully win the £1million, before being the victim of a miscarriage of justice? Let us know in the poll below!
Where is Charles Ingram in 2021?
Ingram’s current whereabouts aren’t known. Ingram has seldom been seen in recent years. Following 17 years of service in the army, he is receiving a pension.
The Ingram case has certainly provoked controversy and will always divide opinion. Ultimately, the Ingram’s and Tecwen Whittock are the only people that know the entire truth from this tale.