Everything you need to know about Charles Ingram - the man who cheated on Who Wants to be a Millionaire

Tuesday, 14th April 2020, 4:40 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th April 2020, 2:31 pm
Everything you need to know about Charles Ingram (Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
Everything you need to know about Charles Ingram (Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

New ITV drama, Quiz, is exploring the bizarre story of the coughing scandal that saw one man bag the £1 million prize on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

But who exactly is Charles Ingram, what happened on Who Wants to be a Millionaire and could he actually be innocent?

As the drama about the infamous cheating scandal continues, this is everything you need to know about Charles Ingram - including what happened during and after the trial.

Who is Charles Ingram?

Charles Ingram was born on 6 August 1963 in Shardlow, Derbyshire, and was son to John Ingram, a retired RAF wing commander and Susan, a theatre set designer.

Charles spent most of his education years at a private boarding school, Oswestry School, where he became a member of the Combined Cadet Force and completed the Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award.

He then went on to study at Kingston University, gaining a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering.

In 1986, Charles trained for the British Army at Sandhurst and was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Engineers - he was promoted to captain in 1990, and then again to major in 1995.

In 1998, Charles was sent to Banja Luka in Bosnia for six months on United Nations peacekeeping duties. In August 2000, he graduated from Cranfield University with a master’s degree in corporate management.

Charles met his future wife Diana when she was training to be a teacher at Barry College in South Wales, and were married in November in 1989. The two have three children together.

Prior to Charles appearing on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Diana and her brother, Adrian Pollock, both starred on the show - they both left with winnings of £32,000.

What happened on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

In 2001, Who Wants to be a Millionaire was at the centre of a famous scandal when contestant Charles Ingram managed to cheat his way to the maximum prize of £1 million.

He became one of the first and only people to win the jackpot. The first UK winner was Judith Keppel, a contestant who scooped up the £1 million prize in 2000.

To secure his place on the show, Charles practiced with a “fastest finger” machine that he and Diana built themselves.

Charles appeared over two episodes of the quiz show. His first episode ended when it ran out of time so he reappeared in the next one to finish his run.

By the time recording finished on his first day, it didn’t seem likely that he would get very far. He had already used up two of his three lifelines by the time he reached the £4,000 question.

As a general rule of thumb, the production team doesn't expect anyone who has used more than one lifeline before reaching a five-figure cash sum to go far.

However, everything changed when Charles returned to the studio to finish recording his episode.

Working with his wife Diana and accomplice Tecwen Whittock in the audience, Charles would muse aloud the possible answers to questions posed by host Chris Tarrant.

When he would mention the correct answer, a cough would sound from the audience.

In one memorable moment, Charles was asked who recorded the 2000 album ‘Born To Do It’.

Charles was certain the answer was A1, stating that he’d never even heard of Craig David.

Just as he was about to lock in A1 for his answer, he suddenly and seemingly without cause, changed his mind and went with Craig David.

New ITV drama Quiz chronicles the scandal involving Charles Ingram (Photo: ITV)

How did they get caught?

During the final rounds of Charles’ questions, the production team began to notice the recurring coughing sounds.

Philip Davies, the studio floor manager, said in court: “There is always coughing during recording, but it’s generally irregular, not systematic.”

When the taping of Charles’ episode finished, the production team immediately began to review the footage of the episode.

The episode was subsequently pulled from being broadcast, with Celador Productions (the production company behind Who Wants to be a Millionaire) informing Charles of this, and also that his £1 million prize was being withdrawn.

With the episode no longer being put to air, the public wouldn’t see the big win until 2003, in the documentary Tonight With Trevor McDonald - Major Fraud.

The Ingrams and Whittock were all arrested later upon suspicion of deception.

Due to Charles’ military status, he was dubbed ‘The Coughing Major’ after the scandal broke out.

During the trial, the defense argued that Whittock suffered from allergies which explained the coughing - however, footage from the show revealed that Whittock stopped coughing when Charles left the set.

Charles also claimed that the footage shown during the trial was unfairly edited, and stated that he didn’t even notice the coughing going on.

All three were later found guilty after a lengthy trial which took place at Southwark Crown Court in 2003.

The Ingrams were sentenced to 18 months in prison and Whittock to 12 months. They all managed to avoid a custodial sentence, with their respective sentences all suspended.

Each of the trio were also fined £15,000, and a further £10,000 for prosecution costs.

Despite the outcome of the trial, the Ingrams have always claimed their innocence.

Could they be innocent?

The question about the trio’s guilt is still ongoing.

In 2006, Guardian writer Jon Ronson, who had covered the trial at the time, stated he had doubts about the guilty verdict.

In an opinion piece for the Guardian, Ronson wrote: “I am beginning to suspect that Charles Ingram, his wife, Diana, and Tecwen Whittock may be innocent.”

In 2015, journalist Bob Woffinden and previous Who Wants to be a Millionaire contestant James Plaskett published a book which went on to highlight some of the possible problems with the case against the Ingrams and Whittock.

James Graham, writer behind ITV drama and west end show about the scandal Quiz, also has some doubts about whether the trio are guilty or not.

Speaking to Radio Times, Graham said: “There are so many things I found extraordinary about the case that don’t make sense.

“The fact that the three of them had never met, the Ingrams and Tecwen Whittock, [they] had never spent any time in a room with each other, and only had one phone call that lasted eight minutes, as fans of the show who discovered they were going to be on the same programme together.”

Graham continued: “The fact that he [Whittock] has a diagnosed cough, he has an asthmatic condition that he can’t control. Would you pick someone who has an uncontrollable cough to cough at specific moments, during a really tense game show? Maybe you wouldn’t.”

What happened to Charles after the trial?

After the trial, Charles was ordered by the Army Board to resign in 2003, giving up his rank of major.

Despite everything that happened on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Charles and his wife Diana both went on to star in more reality TV shows.

Charles starred in The Games, a Channel Four reality sports game which saw contestants undertaking Olympic-style events like weightlifting and gymnastics.

Charles and Diana also returned to quizzing TV, with both of them appearing on The Weakest Link, a quiz show hosted by Anne Robinson. The two also appeared on Wife Swap, where Charles swapped Diana for Big Brother star Jade Goody.

The Ingrams also featured on Hell's Kitchen, where Gordon Ramsey served them a cough sweet.

Charles also went on to become a published author - The Network, published in 2006, and Deep Siege, publishing in 2007.

What is Quiz about?

Quiz is a new ITV drama which chronicles the cheating scandal. It was written by James Graham (The Crown, Brexit: The Uncivil War) , who initially adapted the story into a West End play, also called Quiz.

The show stars Matthew Macfayden (Ripper Street, Succession) as Charles, Sian Clifford (Fleabag, Vanity Fair) as his wife, Diana and Michael Jibson (1917, Saints & Strangers) as Tecwen Whittock.

Chris Tarrant is played by Michael Sheen (Good Omens, The Good Fight).

The show is a three part series. The first episode aired on Monday 13 April and subsequent episodes will air at 9pm on Tuesday 14 April and Wednesday 15 April at 9pm on ITV.

The episodes are also available to watch on the ITV hub after they’ve been aired on TV.