CHEATING Major Charles Ingram and his wife Diana swindled their way to the jackpot on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? in 2001.
The villainous plot is now the subject of both a West End play and an ITV show – but ruined the lives of the couple and coughing accomplice, Tecwen Whittock.
It's believed Charles and Diana, who have three kids, came up with the idea to con the show when Diana and her brother both appeared on the show – winning £32,000 each in 2001.
Just months later Charles answered 15 questions correctly to sensationally scoop the jackpot on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
However, suspicions were immediately sparked – and the cheque was taken from him as he left the studio.
A few days later, Ingram received a message to call Paul Smith, the boss of the company which made the show.
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Smith said there were "irregularities" during the taping of the show and it would not be aired.
Police had also been contacted.
It was suggested Whittock had been coughing loudly to indicate the right answer, and blew his nose loudly when the major was about to give a wrong answer.
Pagers and mobile phones had been used to help, it was claimed.
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The 2003 Southwark Crown Court trial lasted four weeks and heard evidence from Ingram claiming the video tape of the show was "unfairly manipulated".
He insisted he didn't notice the coughing but 192 coughs were recorded during the second night of the show – 32 from the ten Fastest Finger First contestants, with 19 of these "significant".
Prosecutors said these coughs were from Whittock, who claimed to have suffered a persistent cough for his entire life.
It's believed between the two days of filming of the ITV show it was reported that Diana made contact with future contestant Tecwen to plan how to help Charles win.
It is thought that Tecwen genuinely knew the answers himself, but he was helped by Diana.
On one question when Tecwen did not know the answer, Diana coughed instead.
All three were convicted of procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception on April 7, 2003.
Both Diana and Charles were given an 18 month prison sentence suspended for two years, while Whittock received a 12 month sentence suspended for two years.
After he was sentenced, the Army Board forced Ingram to resign as major after 17 years of service.
Despite this, he went on to remain a TV personality and made several appearances on competition reality shows.
He took part in The Weakest Link with his wife Diane, and also competed in The Game alongside former Liberty X singer Kevin Simm.
Charles starred in Channel 4's Wife Swap, where he swapped his wife for Jade Goody.
It emerged in 2016 that Ingram paid only £1,240 of the £25,000 fine he was given in 2003 — despite his court case costing the taxpayer more than £8million.
Magistrates later cut his fine to £5,000. Diana had her fine quashed on appeal.
However, after the trial the Ingrams were vilified and soon stepped out of the limelight with their three daughters, with Charles later claiming that he nearly committed suicide.
Charles retreated to his home in Westbury, Wiltshire, selling jewellery made by Diana on a market stall.
In October 2016, The Sun revealed he was flogging homemade brooches for £5 and necklaces for up to £40.
The Sun tracked down the cheat and found him loading up his belongings into a van to move to a flat on a remote farm.
He decided to sell his £450,000 country home after the scandal turned him into a recluse.
Charles was last spotted selling jewellery in a Christmas market stall in Bath in 2019, he had declared himself as bankrupt for the fourth time just months before.
Diana also runs Bathwick Candle & Co, designing "eco-friendly, pure natural essential oil scented soy wax candles in bespoke pots", to sell online for £20 and above.
According to his Facebook, Ingram has set up Abacus Computing Solutions and is also "director of operations" in his wife’s two businesses.
Meanwhile Tecwen resigned from his lecturer's job at Pontypridd College in Wales shortly after the court case and reportedly had to sell his Whitchurch home to pay fines and court costs.
He apparently tried to make a living out of after-dinner speaking about his Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? experiences.
After ITV show Quiz aired on ITV, Charles tweeted about the actor Matthew Macfadyen, who plays him, saying: "Matthew is so damn good-looking I can’t sleep.
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"Trying to kid myself I looked like that 19 years ago but failing miserably.
"Diana called me ‘Matthew’ as I was brushing my teeth."
During the airing of Quiz, Chris Tarrant was forced to come out and slam suggestions that the Inghams are inncocent.
Writing in the Mail, he said: "I have just one slight problem with Quiz. It suggests the Coughing Major Charles Ingram might possibly be innocent of fraud.
"And that is blatant nonsense. It's ridiculous that this show can be broadcast over three nights and yet nobody is saying, 'Hang on a minute, this man's a crook. He's guilty every step of the way.'"
Meanwhile actor Macfadyen, who played Ingram in the drama, told GQ that he doesn't know if they are innocent or guilty.
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He said: "No. It left me just as completely bewildered as when I started.
"What happened to them was extraordinary, as well as horrific in many ways. They were really vilified publicly and sort of aggressively after the events. They suffered quite a lot, I'd say."
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