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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 11 March, 2003, 18:30 GMT
Contestant 'spotted Millionaire coughs'
Major Charles Ingram arriving at court
Major Charles Ingram denies cheating his way to the 1m prize
A contestant in the audience of TV quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? was "fairly sure" a player and his friend were "in cahoots" to win the top prize, he has told a court.

Graham Whitehurst, a former player on the show, said a system of coughing seemed to be helping Major Charles Ingram towards the 1m jackpot.

By the time the final question was asked Mr Whitehurst was studying college lecturer Tecwen Whittock - accused of strategically coughing from the audience - to see what he would do, he said.

Earlier, a studio floor manager told London's Southwark crown court he had also noticed an apparent system of coughing during recording.

It was not frequent as in uncontrolled coughing, which is why I was suspicious
Millionaire? studio floor manager
Mr Ingram and his wife Diana, both from Easterton in Devizes, Wiltshire, and Mr Whittock of Whitchurch, Cardiff, all deny conspiracy to "dishonestly procure the execution of a valuable security" in September 2001.

On Tuesday Mr Whitehurst said Mr Whittock was "coughing really rather ostentatiously, throughout the programme".

By the time the 1m prize question was given he was fairly certain the major and Mr Whittock were "in cahoots", he said.

The question was: "A number one following by 100 zeros is known by what name?"

Diana Ingram arriving at court
The major's wife Diana also denies the charges
He said: "I was listening out for Googol and thinking as soon as the major says Googol what was Mr Whittock going to do.

"So I was waiting. I was absolutely certain there was going to be a signal by coughing.

"[Mr Ingram] seemed to dismiss Googol initially and he went all round the houses as he had done through the show, and as soon as he got to Googol Tecwen Whittock went 'cough, cough'."

'Unusual'

"There is always coughing during recording - but it is generally irregular and not systematic," studio floor manager Philip Davies told the court.

And the coughing coming from Mr Whittock definitely fell into the latter category, according to Mr Davies.

Being hugely relieved - for this was a fantastic event, a change in lifestyle - that was not their expression
Supervising executive producer Rob Taylor
"It was not frequent as in uncontrolled coughing, which is why I was suspicious," he told the court.

"There was no attempt to stifle it, which again was unusual."

Other crew members had been "similarly aware" of Mr Whittock's coughing, Mr Davies added.

Earlier, an executive producer of Celador, which makes the show for ITV1 in Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, told the court he took the unusual step of searching the Ingrams after the show, because of the suspicious coughing.

But Rob Taylor nonetheless visited the couple in their dressing room with some champagne.

The atmosphere he found there was "not what you would expect" considering they had just become 1m richer, he said.

Tecwen Whittock
Tecwen Whittock denies coughing systematically
"It was tense between the two of them, difficult, it was very strange," he said.

"You had not got any bubbly enthusiasm... being hugely relieved - for this was a fantastic event, a change in lifestyle - that was not their expression."

The trial restarted on Friday after a juror fell ill.

Earlier on Tuesday, the court heard that the three defendants may have been trying to use mobile phones to communicate answers with each other.

The jury heard Mrs Ingram's brother, Marcus Powell, had twice been spotted listening to a phone during recording and had tried to get into the studios four hours before he was allowed.

Mr Ingram has launched civil proceedings to recover the 1m.

The trial continues.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's George Eykyn
"The jury saw Major Ingram become momentarily distressed"



SEE ALSO:
Millionaire: A TV phenomenon
03 Mar 03 |  Entertainment


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