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Sunday, 18 February, 2001, 17:57 GMT
Penniless exit from quiz show
The critical moment for Michelle
Michelle Simmonds fell at the fifth hurdle
A graduate who took part in the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire TV quiz show has become the third contestant to leave without winning anything.

Michelle Simmonds, 30, answered her first two questions correctly, needed help with the next two and then got the fifth, worth 1,000, wrong.

The hotel administrator, who has a business degree from St Andrew's University, said after the pre-recorded show: "I am gutted, but it's because I'm embarrassed, not because I'm not upset not to have won any money."

Presenter Chris Tarrant defended Mrs Simmonds' disastrous performance, and said: "I hate it when people go away with nothing."

She just didn't have the confidence once she got in the chair

Chris Tarrant

"It's only happened twice before but it's so disappointing.

"Michelle certainly wasn't stupid, she just didn't have the confidence once she got in the chair."

Appearing on Saturday night's show, Mrs Simmonds, from Bromham, Bedfordshire, first deliberated on whether the composer JS Bach wrote Air on a G String; Breeze up a Bikini, Waft in the Y-fronts or Gust up a Gusset.

In the question for 300, she asked the audience in which city Everton Football Club is based and they helped her choose the right answer, Liverpool.

Quiz host Chris Tarrant
Chris Tarrant: Agonising moment

She then phoned a friend on the 500 question: Which EastEnders character is played by Todd Carty? The answer was Mark Fowler.

She came unstuck on this 1,000 question: Which word specifically links a kind of mammal with an archbishop or high-ranking bishop? A, Carnivore; B, Rodent; C, Primate; D, Marsupial.

Michelle wrongly chose marsupial instead of primate.

"I'm sure in the past we have given away thousands to people who probably weren't quite as bright as Michelle," said Chris Tarrant.

'A bit panicked'

He continued: "She seemed to get a bit panicked when she wasn't sure of the first question and she didn't really seem to recover from that bad start.

"It's very daunting sitting in that seat and much harder than it looks from the comfort of your armchair at home.

"It takes a lot of nerve but most contestants settle down after the first couple of questions.

"I hope Michelle didn't go away too disappointed. It was such an agonising moment.

"I think I was more upset than she was. It was almost as nerve-wracking as watching someone win a million."

Exclusive club

The two other people to leave the hot-seat with nothing were John Davidson, 39, a dog handler from Northumberland, in January 1999 and David Snaith, 40, a maintenance engineer from Bedfordshire, in March 1999.

Last November, 58-year-old Judith Keppel became the show's first person to win the 1m jackpot.

Last month, unemployed 53-year-old Steve Devlin, narrowly missed out on the top prize, settling for 500,000 instead.

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See also:

20 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Who wants to see a millionaire?
15 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Millionaire? cleared of ratings 'fix'
21 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Millionaire wins ratings fight
21 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Millionaire moments
20 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Steve wants to be half-millionaire
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