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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April, 2003, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Major gives the game away

by Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Diana and Charles Ingram
The pair never received the prize money
As the Millionaire fraud trio continue to protest their innocence, Martin Bashir's TV "retrial" of their case provided apparently overwhelming evidence of their guilt.

The ITV1 documentary Major Fraud revisited the studio set where a succession of programme staff and contestants recalled their unease about the behaviour of Charles and Diana Ingram and Tecwen Whittock during the quiz show.

By the end of Bashir's 90-minute forensic-style examination of their supposed cheating methods, the case against them appeared to be beyond reasonable doubt.

It was a gripping account of the convicted threesome's seemingly blatant - at times, even crude - efforts to deprive the show of its 1m purse.

The detailed chronicling of Whittock's coughing "on cue" - set in the visual context of the major's continued repetition of the possible answers - was enough to convince me of their guilt.

The case against them was strengthened by the apparently endless discomfort and strained body language of Mrs Ingram - coming across more ill-at-ease than is usual for a spouse in her seat.

Then there was the sheer amount of suspicion aroused among the staff on the show - from lowly researcher to Celador executive as well as two articulate fellow players with no obvious axe to grind.

Tecwen Whittock
Whittock's coughs indicated the correct answers
In the hotseat, Major Ingram - characterised as an amiably bumbling army toff - showed little of the furrowed brow, hard concentration and tough self-checking that has marked out previous big winners.

With his early form faltering, programme staff admitted they did not expect him to last much beyond the 32,000 level - and said their gut instinct was that he was cheating.

His supposed strategy of simply "going for it" and "counter attacking" seemed more confused, confusing and inconsistent as the questions progressed.

At least twice he was seen to give confident, certain answers and then change them at a stroke in behaviour that must have seemed unfathomable to some in the studio audience.

On both occasions, Whittock's coughs could be clearly heard guiding him.

Whittock has complained that the sound of his coughing had been isolated and the quiz show unfairly edited in the documentary to give a distorted picture of events.

Calm

But in the full-length episode aired afterwards on ITV2, Whittock's throat problems were still perfectly audible.

So too was his uttering of the word "no" and a blowing of his nose on the 500,000 question that supposedly signalled time to bail out.

By the time Major Ingram reached the 1m question, he was smiling far too much for a man uncertain of the answer who would surely have felt unimaginable stress.

"It became obvious he wasn't under the pressure he should have been," was how executive producer Rod Taylor described it.

"He should have been very very careful and very very certain and he certainly wasn't."

Bashir's programme offered a vivid and compelling analysis of the three cheats' system - in retrospect, an embarrassingly clumsy one - to swindle Celador and the viewing public.

An interesting aside was Chris Tarrant, focused on his job as quizmaster, remained ignorant of the crime while his production staff were going frantic backstage.

Full marks, too, to the cough syrup manufacturer that was first off the mark with an advert at the end of part one.




SEE ALSO:
Millionaire scam to become film
22 Apr 03  |  Entertainment
A Major Fraud: Your views
22 Apr 03  |  Entertainment


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