Charles Ingram

Charles William Ingram (born 1963) is an English former British Army major who became known for cheating on the television game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in 2001, after winning the maximum prize of one million pounds. Following a lengthy trial at Southwark Crown Court, he was convicted on a single count of procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception. In 2003, Ingram was convicted of an unrelated insurance fraud, and ordered to resign his commission as a major by the Army Board.

Charles Ingram
Charles Ingram with his wife Diana in 2006
Charles William Ingram

1963 (age 5556)
OccupationNovelist and computer repairman
Known forWho Wants to Be a Millionaire? cheating scandal
Diana Ingram (m. 1989)

Education and career

Charles Ingram was born on 6 August 1963 in Shardlow, Derbyshire. He is the son of retired RAF wing commander John Ingram (RAF/39187) and his wife Susan, a theatre set designer. John Ingram's Wellington bomber, operating with 103 Squadron from RAF Elsham Wolds, had been shot down on the night of 20/21 September 1941 and he was taken Prisoner of War, two of the crew being killed.[1] Ingram's parents divorced when he was young and he spent most of his education years boarding privately at Oswestry School.[2] There he was a member of the Combined Cadet Force and completed the Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award.[1] Ingram went on to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Kingston University.[2]

In 1986, Ingram trained for the British Army at Sandhurst and was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Engineers.[3] He was promoted to the rank of captain in 1990,[3] and major in 1995.[4] In 1998, Ingram was sent to Banja Luka in Bosnia[5] for six months on United Nations peacekeeping duties.[6] He graduated from Cranfield University with a master's degree in corporate management in August 2000.[1] He was forced by the Army Board of Inquiry via letter to tender his resignation on 20 August 2003 and give up his rank of major.[7]

Ingram met his wife Diana while she was training to be a teacher at Barry College in South Wales. The two became engaged during his first posting with the Royal Engineers in Germany. The couple were married in November 1989 and have three children.[1] Since leaving the Army, Ingram has written two novels: The Network, published on 27 April 2006, and Deep Siege, published on 8 October 2007.[8]

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

£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

On 9 and 10 September 2001, Ingram was a contestant on the television game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. His wife Diana and her brother Adrian Pollock had previously been contestants on the show, both winning £32,000.[9][10] The show, presented by Chris Tarrant, was one of the highest-rated in the UK at its peak in 1999; one edition was watched by 19 million viewers, a third of the British population at the time.[11]

Ingram practised for about twenty minutes per day on a fastest finger machine that he constructed.[12] By the time recording ended on the first day, Ingram had reached £4,000 and used two of his three "lifelines". The production team doubted he would proceed much further when recording resumed, but he went on to win the top prize of £1 million.[11] Ingram flipped between answers erratically, appearing to settle on one answer before suddenly moving to another. For example, when asked who recorded the 2000 Craig David album Born to Do It, Ingram said he had "never heard of" David and appeared to go for a different option before moving to the correct answer.[11]

The show's production company Celador suspended the £1 million payout after they suspected Ingram had cheated. Production staff accused Ingram and his wife of defrauding the show by having an accomplice in the audience, lecturer Tecwen Whittock, cough when Ingram read out a correct answer.[13]

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: "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."[14] A member of the crew, Eve Winstanley, testified in court that Ingram seemed "very unhappy" for someone who had just won a million pounds.[13]

In court, Paul Smith of Celador confirmed that his company had previously produced a television programme involving witnesses in the case, for broadcast on ITV after the trial. The programme, Tonight With Trevor McDonald – Major Fraud, was broadcast on ITV on 21 April 2003 (a month after the trial began), and credited with over 17 million viewers. On 9 May 2003 (the day after Major Fraud aired in the US as a special episode of Primetime), the same channel broadcast another programme on the same topic, entitled The Final Answer, which was credited with over 5 million viewers.


Following a trial at Southwark Crown Court lasting four weeks (including jury deliberation for three-and-a-half days), Ingram, his wife and Whittock were convicted by a majority verdict of "procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception" on 7 April 2003. Both the Ingrams and Whittock were each given prison sentences suspended for two years (the Ingrams were sentenced to eighteen months and Whittock was sentenced to twelve months), 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.[15]

On 19 August 2003, the Army Board ordered Ingram to resign his commission as a major, after seventeen years of service, but stated that this would not affect his pension entitlements.[16]

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.[17] On 5 October, 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, the original trial judge reduced Ingram's defence costs order to £25,000 and Diana's defence costs order to £5,000.[18] Ingram's defence costs were later further reduced to £5,000 on appeal.

In 2006, journalist Jon Ronson, who covered the case at the time for The Guardian, wrote that he believed the Ingrams might be innocent. Ronson had observed that when the word "cough" was mentioned during the trial, pensioners in the public gallery had coughed. James Plaskett, who had won £250,000 on Millionaire and had been in the audience three times, argued that this was an example of coughs being caused by unconscious triggers; Whittock had simply coughed involuntarily when he heard the correct answer. Plaskett argued that Whittock had audibly said "no" in response to an incorrect option in the same way that many audience members whisper "no" to each other.[19]

A book covering the case, Bad Show: The Quiz, The Cough, The Millionaire Major by Bob Woffinden and James Plaskett was published in January 2015. Quiz, a play written by James Graham that re-examines the events and subsequent conviction of the Ingrams and Whittock, opened at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, on 3 November 2017, running until 9 December 2017.[20] The play transferred to the West End—playing at the Noël Coward Theatre from 31 March 2018 to 16 June 2018.[21]

Recorded evidence

In court, Ingram claimed the videotape of his appearance on Millionaire was "unrepresentative of what I heard", and 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 for the "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 the correct answer had been spoken. During the trial, Tarrant also denied hearing any coughing throughout the episode, claiming he was too busy to notice.[14]

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.[22]

Testimony of Tecwen Whittock

Whittock claims to have suffered a persistent cough for his entire life[23] 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 answers.[24] 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.[24] Whittock later testified that he drank several glasses of water before he went in front of the cameras.[25] 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 the twelfth question, regarding the artist who painted The Ambassadors, in a hand-written general knowledge book at Whittock's home.[24]

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".[26]

During the trial, Whittock portrayed himself as a "serial quiz show loser" because he had been eliminated in round one of Fifteen to One and had only won an atlas on his appearance on Sale of the Century.[27]

Insurance fraud

In late 2003, the Ingrams were charged with further fraud offences. On 28 October, Charles Ingram was found guilty at Bournemouth Crown Court of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception, and of a second charge of deception, having attempted to claim on an insurance policy after an alleged burglary at his home. Ingram had failed to tell Direct Line Insurance about claims he had made in the three years before he took out 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.[28]

Christopher Parker, prosecuting, said Ingram switched insurers to Zurich Insurance Group in 1997, after 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 Millionaire.[28]

Ingram was given a conditional discharge on the charge of fraudulently claiming £30,000 on insurance. The judge told Ingram he took into account "the punishment you have brought upon yourself and your dire financial state", and he rejected an alternative option of a community service order after Ingram told a probation officer he feared other criminals would bully him.[29]

After Millionaire

Following his appearance on Millionaire, Ingram has appeared on other various TV shows, including The Games (on which he featured with former Liberty X singer Kevin Simm),[30] The Weakest Link (on which he featured with his wife, Diana) and Wife Swap, where he swapped his wife for Jade Goody.

The story surrounding the scandal was adapted by James Graham into the West End play Quiz with Gavin Spokes playing the role of Ingram. In August 2019, ITV announced that they had commissioned James Graham to adapt the play into a three part television drama with Matthew Macfadyen as Ingram.[31]

Ingram's appearance on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was featured in a November 2018 episode of the true crime podcast Swindled.[32]

See also


  1. "The major: strategist who flunked simple questions; Profile". The Times. 8 April 2003. p. 11. Retrieved 2 October 2017 via Academic OneFile.
  2. Walne, Toby (16 September 2006). "Fame and fortune". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  3. "No. 52131". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 May 1990. p. 8819.
  4. "No. 54173". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 October 1995. pp. 13315–13316.
  5. Vasagar, Jeevan (20 March 2003). "Pager claims are rot, major tells court". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  6. "The man behind the scams". BBC News. 28 October 2003. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  7. "Marching orders for Army gameshow cheat". Al Jazeera. 24 July 2003. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  8. "Deep Siege by Charles Ingram". Fantastic Fiction. 8 October 2007. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
  9. "Major Charles Ingram has been found guilty of cheating his way to the top prize on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire". BBC News. 7 April 2003. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  10. Martin Bashir (2003). Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Major Fraud (Television). London, England: ITV.
  11. Harrison, Angus (9 September 2016). "That Time a Guy Won 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?' by Cheating Terribly". VICE. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  12. Woolcock, Nicola (22 March 2003). "Millionaire quiz major had ploy to foil Tarrant". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  13. "Millionaire winner 'unhappy'". BBC News. 10 March 2003. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  14. Mcveigh, Karen (13 March 2003). "Quizmaster 'amazed' to hear £1m winner could have cheated". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  15. "Charles Ingram transcript". Evening Standard. 21 January 2004. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  16. "BBC NEWS - UK - Millionaire cheat sacked by Army".
  17. "TV quiz cheat loses his appeal". BBC News. 19 May 2004. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  18. "Quiz cheat has defence costs cut". BBC News. 21 October 2004. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  19. Ronson, Jon (17 July 2006). "Are the Millionaire three innocent?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
  20. "Quiz". Chichester Festival Theatre. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  21. "Quiz the Play by James Graham | Official West End Website". 12 April 2018. Archived from the original on 12 April 2018. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  22. "Contestant 'spotted Millionaire coughs'". BBC News. 11 March 2003. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  23. "So I phoned a friend – part two". The Guardian. London. 19 April 2003. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  24. Innes, John (7 March 2003). "Pager plot too risky for TV quiz". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  25. "Cheating 'silly' says Millionaire accused". BBC News. 26 March 2003. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  26. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 October 2004. Retrieved 26 September 2004.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  27. Innes, John (26 March 2003). "Lecturer a serial quiz show failure, court is told". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 18 April 2003. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  28. Woolcock, Nicola (29 October 2003). "'Millionaire' quiz cheat guilty of insurance fraud". Daily Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  29. Savill, Richard (22 November 2003). "Cheating major walks free over insurance fraud". Daily Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  30. "The Games". UK Game Shows. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  31. "ITV has commissioned 'Quiz' a three-part drama directed by Stephen Frears starring Hollywood star, Michael Sheen". ITV Media. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
  32. "Episode 06: The Contestant". Swindled | A true crime podcast about white-collar criminals, con artists, and corporate evil. 18 November 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2019.

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