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Last Updated:  Thursday, 6 March, 2003, 20:05 GMT
'Millionaire cheats dropped pager plan'
Tecwen Whittock
Mr Whittock: coughs due to dust
Three people accused of cheating on the quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? considered using vibrating pagers to help them win the top prize, a court has heard.

Major Charles Ingram, his wife Diana, and another contestant, Tecwen Whittock, are instead alleged to have used a series of coughs to indicate correct answers.

On the second day of their trial, Mr Whittock, a college lecturer, was also said to have told police his coughs were due to a dust allergy.

All three deny a single charge of deception.

He said he was innocently coughing at times because he had an irritable cough which worsened the longer he sat there
Nicholas Hilliard

Nicholas Hilliard, prosecuting, told Southwark Crown Court the defendants may have considered using four vibrating pagers to indicate the correct answers to questions in order to help Major Ingram win 1m.

But, Mr Hilliard suggested, this may have been abandoned as being "too risky".

Police discovered that for months before Major Ingram appeared in the studio hot seat opposite programme host Chris Tarrant, a stream of messages containing only numbers had been sent to pagers from the couple's phones.

The barrister suggested it might have been possible for an accomplice to signal the correct answer using four pagers hidden in the contestant's clothing.

"If each of four pagers represented a different letter of the alphabet - one as answer a, the other answer b, the third answer c, the fourth answer d - then you could signal a correct answer to a helper in the audience or to somebody actually in the hot seat who had the four pagers on them in different places, by causing one particular pager to vibrate rather than any of the others," Mr Hilliard said.

The major's wife, Diana, told police when questioned that she used the pagers to contact her brothers, Marcus Powell and Adrian Pollock.

Coughed answer

The alleged cheating plot came to light after Major Ingram had been presented with the 1m cheque by Tarrant when production staff picked up on a series of coughs heard during filming.

Further inquiries by police pointed to Mr Whittock, who was sitting just a few seats from the soldier in the studio, the court heard.

Charles and Diana Ingram

Mr Whittock, 53, told police he had a sinus condition which had made him cough during the filming.

He also claimed he had not known some of the answers to the questions put to Major Ingram anyway.

But Mr Hilliard said that, during a search of Mr Whittock's home, a "hand-written" general knowledge book was found containing some of the information he claimed not to have known.

On Wednesday, the court heard Mr Ingram and Mr Whittock developed a signal for the correct answer by coughing.

On Thursday, the prosecution claimed Mr Whittock's cough cleared up as soon as he won the "fastest finger" round and he took the "hot seat" himself.

Mr Hilliard said the jury could be sure the three defendants "were in it together"

He said: "Mr Whittock said he was innocently coughing at times because he had an irritable cough which worsened the longer he sat there.

"That was due to hayfever and a... sort of allergy to dust.

"No doubt, he does have an allergy, but there is no condition causing you to cough after someone has given the right answer to a question."

Mr Hilliard said that the college lecturer insisted "it could only be a coincidence" if his coughing had coincided with the answers.

All three defendants are charged with procuring a valuable security by deception on 10 September.

Mr Ingram, 39, and his 38-year-old nursery nurse wife, of Easterton, Wiltshire, and Mr Whittock, 53, of Whitchurch, Cardiff, who is head of business studies at Pontypridd College, south Wales, deny the charge.

The trial was adjourned and will continue on Friday.

Millionaire: A TV phenomenon
03 Mar 03 |  Entertainment

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