[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 21 April, 2003, 22:30 GMT 23:30 UK
Millionaire cheats left 'devastated'
Diana and Charles Ingram
The Ingrams celebrate their win
Major Charles Ingram and his wife Diana, who were found guilty of cheating on television quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, have protested their innocence and said the verdict had ruined their lives.

Their comments to the BBC came as ITV aired a documentary about the scandal on Monday night.

Along with former college lecturer Tecwen Whittock, they were recently convicted of conspiracy to cheat the programme out of 1m.

When the documentary was aired on Monday night it caused a power surge equivalent to an episode of Coronation Street, according to National Grid.

Major Ingram was shown in the show's hot seat, answering questions to win the jackpot while Whittock was in the audience, indicating the correct answers with coughs.

Diana Ingram, seen looking anxiously in Whittock's direction, was found guilty of helping to "set up" the scam.

The couple told the BBC they may appeal against the verdicts.

Major Charles Ingram
No cheating took place in any shape or form
Major Charles Ingram

Diana Ingram told the BBC: "It [the show] has ruined our lives and I wish it had never been invented."

Her husband said: "I did not cheat. We did not cheat.

"There was no plan to cheat on the show. There were no thought of cheating on the show.

"No cheating took place in any shape or form."

He also denied he had heard any coughing.

"It didn't lead me to the answers," he said.

But one audience member, Robert Brydges, said he was convinced the major was being helped.

"I thought that what I saw was literally unbelievable. It was not a credible performance," he said.

The Ingrams were sentenced to 18 months in jail suspended for two years.

Whittock received a 12-month sentence, also suspended for two years.

Hay fever defence

The couple were also fined 15,000 each and ordered to pay 10,000 costs.

Whittock was fined 10,000 with 7,500 costs.

The defence counsel argued Whittock had been suffering from hay fever and asthma.

Diana Ingram
The tension was too much for Diana Ingram
Whittock has said he is planning an appeal against the verdict.

A documentary on ITV1 shown on Monday night explored the major's appearance on the show and the court case.

ITV1's Millionaire: A Major Fraud, an edition of Tonight with Trevor McDonald, featured interviews with presenter Chris Tarrant, the show's producers and other contestants who suspected foul play.

On the documentary Whittock's series of coughs could be heard, including one which is followed by the word "no" as Ingram is about to give the wrong answer.

On a number of occasions, Ingram performed U-turns when coughs from Whittock persuaded him he was wrong.

Also Mrs Ingram could be heard coughing on one question when her husband was asked who had a hit UK album Born To Do It.

Ingram opted for Craig David - an artist he had never heard of.

It was revealed during the documentary that the recording of the show had been interrupted and the tape rewound as producers suspected something was amiss.

The documentary was followed by a screening of the major's appearance on the quiz show in full, on digital channel ITV2.

Celador now hopes to turn the story into a Hollywood film.


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific