So scandalous was Ingram’s winning the million, that the episode didn’t originally see airplay. But it blew up anyway. And so, an investigation was launched and so began one of the quiz show’s most debated events. Never mind, “Slumdog Millionaire,” here we have one of the most dramatic and infamous “Millionaire” wins – and it’s all real.
The Coughing Scandal
Known as the notorious “Coughing Scandal,” Charles Ingram, his wife, Diana Ingram, and brother-in-law, Tecwen Whittock, found themselves under fire for cheating. Due to the massive hit of the quiz show, after being convicted and found guilty at the 2003 Southwark Crown Court trial, they suffered much humiliation, became the butt of jokes and memes, and were branded forever as cheaters. However, though the trial ended in April 2003, and though the original episode wasn’t aired, the storm for the trio hadn’t passed.
In 2020, the TV mini-series “Quiz” was released starring Matthew MacFadyen, Sian Clifford, and Michael Sheen revisiting that infamous “Millionaire” win and subsequent trial. Since then, the “coughing scandal” has erupted again – and when every scandal and mystery gets a revisit, previously overlooked facts come to light.
Preparations Were Made
On September 9, 2001, Major Charles Ingram became one of the contestants on the hit quiz show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Clearly, Ingram was one who wanted to be a millionaire as after competing in a simple Agatha Christie question, Ingram had inputted the title of the Christie novel in the right order – “Death on the Nile” – and won the elimination round, putting him into the hot seat.
Ingram had a bit of help getting there. At home, he had devised a “fastest-finger-first” (FFF) replica machine helping him to practice inputting answers at lightning speed. Naturally, there’s nothing in the rules against this, so Ingram up to now had been fair play. As Ingram was a British Army major, much respect was shown to him.
In 1987, Ingram joined the British Army and trained in Sandhurst as an engineer. Ingram seemed always destined for a career in engineering. After secondary school, he studied for a BSc and trained as a civil engineer at Kingston University in Southwest London. While it was pretty obvious that he was headed for a career as an engineer, it looks like his history and background had also intended for him to serve in the British Army.
In fact, Ingram’s father had formerly been an RAF bomber making up part of the 103rd. During Charles Ingram’s schooling, he joined the Cadet Force, mapping out a career for him in the British Army.
When Charles Met Diana
Of course, that's exactly what happened. Ingram joined the British Army for training in 1987. During his training, he met his wife, Diana, who had been training as a teacher in Wales. When Ingram was relocated to Germany with the Royal Engineers, despite the distance between the European mainland and the British Isles, the two remained strong and became engaged.
In 1989, the couple were married and to this day, the marriage remains strong. Training with the Royal Engineers, Ingram had much success and was promoted to the ranks of captain in 1990 and major in 1995. Following the unrest in Bosnia, Major Ingram was sent to Bosnia in 1999 to join the UN peacekeeping forces.
After the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” fiasco erupted and Ingram and his wife were convicted, Diana remained steadfast in supporting her husband and declaring his innocence. Yet, the Royal Army wasn’t as convinced. The three quiz-show contestants were found guilty in April 2003. Five months later, in August 2003, Ingram was given a dishonorable discharge from the British Army.
While we know that quiz shows are a big deal in the British Isles, we didn’t know they were this big a deal. Former Royal Engineer, Ingram, had to learn this the hard way. The worst part is that he made to give up his title and rank of major. That must have been a major disappointment.
International Waves Were Caused
“Who Wants to be a Millionaire” was an incredibly popular show. To say that the show was popular was an understatement, it was a mega-popular show. It was such a massive hit with audiences that there were numerous spin-offs – when we say numerous spin-offs, we’re not kidding.
A whopping one hundred and sixty countries all had their own versions of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” like the USA, India, Austria, the Philippines, and South Africa. With such a mega-popular show, when a contestant was suspected of cheating and almost got away with it, of course, it would blow up.
The Hounding Never Ended
Not only was the quiz show loved around the globe, but Ingram, unfortunately, provoked an investigation in the one place where many eyes would be watching – on live TV. There would be numerous producers watching. On top of that, Ingram’s scandal involved the original and quintessential “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” – the British one.
If the investigation had occurred in one of the numerous spin-offs many years later, it may have blown over, but not in the original production. No ways. The scandal was always bound to balloon – it just comes with the territory. As said, the British are just a bit too enthusiastic about their trivia quiz shows.
How the Quiz Really Went Down
On the night of September 9, 2001, Major Ingram started off strong. He breezed through the first five questions. Ingram knew what a “clothes horse” was and did not mistake it for a “clothes dog.” He also knew that a “butterscotch” was the name of a kind of “brittle toffee” and not a “pavement game.” Unsurprisingly the major answered a question related to a Scottish Army regiment’s nickname, “Black Watch,” correctly.
Interestingly, as Ingram’s famous win is also referred to as the “coughing” scandal or simply “coughing” – although coughing-gate would have worked just as well – during Ingram’s first relatively smooth stretch, the studio was noticeably quiet. Perhaps, the producers had not yet turned on the air con. Or perhaps, there was a plot in the works.
Things Start to Go Downhill
Things took a sharp downturn then. Major Ingram was stopped in his tracks at the question for £2,000 when asked about a character from the popular British soap opera, “Coronation Street.” The Major dared not go into the line of fire without backup, so he used his ask-the-audience lifeline. It seemed like the Major had made the right choice.
His backup came to his aid, and he answered the £2,000 question correctly, doubling his winnings. But Ingram’s next stumbling block came. This time, the topic was geography – British Geography. Once again, Major Ingram was not alone in the trenches, but he had to use his “phone-a-friend” lifeline for assistance. His friend, Gerald, came through for him and Ingram earned £4,000.
First Night Down; One to Go
Then, the siren blared out. The sun had figuratively set on Major Ingram’s first night on the show. He’d have to return to the studio for the second night and for his second round of questioning. The sun had also figuratively set on a rather blatant truth – things weren’t looking incredibly bright for the Major. Though he had 7 questions correctly, he had a long way to go.
Ingram was not quite halfway, but he had used already two of his lifelines. And the questions were only going to get tougher. In all honesty, things looked rather bleak for the major. Then, again, life is full of surprises. And on Charles’ subsequent visit to the studio, everyone that night was about to see just how surprising things could get.
The First Red Flag
Next, Ingram was confronted by a £32,000 question, one related to pop music. It proved yet another stumbling block for the Major. Here was one of the bizarre turns of events that evening. Having confessed that Ingram had never personally heard of Craig David and choosing at the last minute to answer Craig David instead of A1, somehow Ingram managed to earn £32,000.
During the trial, this was one of the occasions that drew much attention. How can a person answer a trivia question having never heard of the answer personally? In Ingram’s defense, he had used his 50/50 lifeline and narrowed down the answer to just two options. But why change his mind at the very last minute? Hadn’t he been set on A1?
The Coughing Begins
Another curiosity also appeared at this moment. His wife, Diana Ingram, who had joined the Major at the studio, but was seated up in the audience, looked very concerned about her husband’s predicament. While Ingram was clearly stumped by the question – and spent a considerable amount of time – deciding on his answer (even after using his remaining lifeline), Diana’s eyes kept flitting from her husband to the corner of the stage in the direction of one of the FFF contestants.
This was where Whittock was seated. It was at this point (after Ingram had used his 50/50 lifeline and was dead set on A1 as the answer) that Diana Ingram coughed. Once again, the major’s wife coughed. And then, Ingram took a “detour” and went with Craig David.
Suspicions Begin to Fly
The answer to Ingram’s burning question was not revealed. Maybe, because it seemed like Ingram was in no hurry to give his answers, the studio was in no hurry to say whether he was correct or not. Or perhaps, the producers’ suspicions had already been aroused. A break was called. After the break, Craig David was confirmed as being the right answer. Major Ingram had had a major stroke of luck.
Changing his answer at the last minute had been the right course of action as he was now guaranteed to win £32,000. There was also a noticeable change in the presenter’s tone. He spoke his thoughts aloud, saying that Ingram’s strategy was at best a confusing one.
It's All in the Eyes
As said, this point in the show became a key point during the contenders’ trial. The prosecution paid close attention to Diana Ingram’s behavior. It was understandable that Diana was concerned for her husband, but why did her eyes keep darting to the FFF area? During such a tense moment, why did her eyes keep flitting between Ingram and someone sitting in this area?
It was clear she was also irritated as she very clearly rolled her eyes. But who or what was she irritated at? We only speculate and say she was either irritated that her husband did not know the answer or, as the prosecution suggested, that there had been silence from Whittock’s seat.
Strange Body Language
Naturally, there had been eyes also on Major Ingram. His body language clearly demonstrated that he did not know the answer as he scratched his head several times. He also mentioned as much saying he had no idea who Craig David was. He took his time answering, repeating his options out loud several times.
But the main point of interest was why after Diana started coughing did, he change his answer from AI to Craig David when he had obviously been determined to go with A1. Yet, in Ingram’s defense, was it possible to hear his wife’s coughing from the stage? He had been thinking out loud and Diana was seated some seats up in the studio.
A Lucky Break?
We have no possible way of knowing whether Ingram could have heard his wife from in the hot seat. She was at a considerable distance from him. The Major certainly gave no sign that he had heard his wife’s coughing. There was no real change in his demeanor (but this would change later). Perhaps, Ingram had a rare talent for acting and had heard his wife’s cough – her signal to him – and could play on without showing any reaction.
Or perhaps, Ingram had been acting all along and really had known the answer all along. The last theory that stands is that he didn’t know the answer, took a risk, and it ended up being the right choice. What we do know is that Ingram was now guaranteed £32,000.
Tarrant Challenges the Major
After progressing to the next round, Chris Tarrant voiced his bewilderment. He asked Ingram about his strategy, saying how could he change his mind at the last minute, and, even more perplexingly, choose an option which he had never heard of. Whether Tarrant was suspicious at the moment was not obvious.
Of course, Tarrant, as the presenter of the show, had to play the role of presenter and make the show as entertaining as possible. After all, the episode would still have to be aired (probably in his mind at least) and he had to keep the friendly and entertaining impression up. That said, Tarrant did little to hide his surprise at Ingram progressing to the next round and final stage of the quiz.
A Coughing Frenzy Ensues
During the final stage (the remaining five questions), an interesting development took place. A member of the FFF contenders (Whittock) started coughing. Even more intriguing is that whenever Major Ingram went through his options, mentioning them out loud, Whittock would cough. It just so happened that that cough would take place at the very moment when Ingram would mention the winning answer. Now, that’s a whooping cough like we’ve never heard of.
First, Ingram said “cricket” and there was a cough. And yet another, when “Cricket” was repeated. And when the Major answered “cricket,” he won £64,000. Second, Ingram said the option “Holbein” for the £125,000 question. There were two coughs again and both when “Holbein” was mentioned. “Holbein” was indeed the correct answer. The Major landed himself £125,000.
There was something else that was curious about these last two rounds – Major Ingram’s reasoning, which is that Ingram seemed to have no reasoning at all. Quiz contestants generally explain why they’re going with an answer, especially “Millionaire” contestants as they’re given the time to ponder over the question.
Tarrant will gently probe them for a bit of information and they will mention their outright confidence in an answer or why they are feeling inclined with a particular answer. Of course, quiz-show contenders are only human, and humans like to show off their big brains. And while know-it-alls are a bit unpleasant in everyday life, on shows like “Millionaire,” know-it-alls are more than welcome. Was Major Ingram just an exception? Was he simply immune to having his ego stroked?
Ingram Actually Gets One Right Himself
In the next round, a slight change occurred. The question related to fashion – asking what an Anthony Eden was – here, Ingram explained his answer, “hat.” The Major stated that the “Anthony Eden” was a kind of tall hat. Major Ingram was completely on the money with this one – and in more ways than one. An “Anthony Eden” was indeed an old-fashioned tall hat.
However, even in this round, the cough made a reappearance – and every time, the word “hat” was brought up. If Whittock had been signaling to Ingram, maybe he didn’t know whether Ingram knew the answer, but he would have known that it was a tall hat and that Ingram was on the money. Nonetheless, the cough came for its third round of haunting.
Berlin or Paris?
The penultimate question and for a staggering £500,000 was related to architecture and city planning. It asked which city Baron Haussmann was the planner of. Using the planner’s name as a clue, Ingram believed that the answer was “Berlin” as Haussmann sounded of German origin. While Napoleon would be horrified to hear this – and probably the Baron himself – Ingram was bent on Berlin.
But, then, somewhere in the shadows, the cough made another reappearance. And this time, it was accompanied by a very subtle “no.” However, when Ingram went through his other options, notably, “Paris,” the disembodied cough came back for another round of haunting. We can say the cough had done its job – Ingram changed his mind, answered “Paris,” and landed himself a check for £500,000.
The Final Question
Not only had Major Ingram landed himself £500,000, but also an opportunity to win £1,000,000. Even Tarrant mentioned that it was a rare occasion for a contestant, as well as the whole of the United Kingdom, to see the £1,000,000 question. Of course, if Ingram answered the question correctly, he’d be £1,000,000 richer.
However, if he failed to, he would lose a tearful £468,000. To say that it was a tense moment would be like pointing out the obvious, but nonetheless, Ingram collected himself and braced himself for the next question. If only fate would take pity on him and a question came up that he knew the answer for.
Tarrants Turns Up the Heat
The only thing between him and the £1,000,000 was a mathematics question – what was the name given to 1 followed by a million zeros? And sadly, it wasn’t something that Ingram had knowledge of. It simply came down to guesswork. Here we saw a familiar situation. Out of the four options, Ingram’s initial answer was “nanomole.” But in all truth, Major Ingram hadn’t the faintest idea. He simply confessed that “he wasn’t sure.”
It was then that we heard Tarrant’s snide comment – “Charles, you haven’t been sure since the question for £2000.” Perhaps, there was more to this comment. Perhaps, the “Millionaire” presenter was showing his true side, and that he knew there was something off – or not completely right.
The Major Almost Gave Up
What is interesting is that Ingram had seemed on the brink of defeat, stating outright “I don’t think I can do this one.” The major appeared to be majorly perplexed. It seemed like the major was genuinely stumped and was going to have to take his winnings home. It wouldn’t have been all that bad as he would have gone home with a happy £500,000.
Yet, once again, a familiar situation occurred. Major Ingram went through his options. One by one, he named them. First, he said, “I think it’s a ‘nanomole.’" Next, he offered, “It could be a ‘gigabit.’ Then again, “I don’t think it’s a ‘megatron.’” And finally, “I haven’t heard of a ‘googol.’”
Either the producers must have jacked up the air-con too ultracold to make the studio a freezing zone or “googol” had made Whittock cough again. And like on previous occasions, the coughing came only when the Major mentioned answer A: googol.
Interestingly, after hearing the cough or alternatively ‘by a process of elimination,’ Ingram had suddenly seemed more convinced about the answer being “googol.” Why Ingram was so sure of it being “googol” is simply downright crazy as he himself confessed that he had no idea was a “googol” was. He offered no explanation only that it sounded like a good guess.
Charles Takes a Gamble
Now, of course, if you’re playing a quiz game casually with friends you can make a random guess because the stakes aren’t exactly high. But Major Ingram was sitting on £500,000. A wrong guess would leave him £468,000 poorer. Of course, the right answer would make him £1,000,000. But it all boiled down to the fact that Ingram had no idea what the answer was.
However, after hearing a second cough – conveniently occurring at the mention of “googol” – suddenly, Ingram seemed certain. He went from being on the brink of calling it quits to confident in a matter of seconds – despite never hearing of a “googol.” While it’s not enough reason for most people to take such an incredible gamble, it was enough for Ingram.
Tarrant Starts to Lose It
It was clear that Tarrant’s patience was beginning to fade. Major Ingram confessed that he did not know what a “googol” was, but said this was he was one opportunity to win £1,000,000. Of course, Tarrant, dished out the truth to the major with a bit of sass, saying it was also the major’s first opportunity to lose £468,000.
Tarrant also summed up Ingram’s rationale saying, “You’ve got £500,000. You’re going for the one you’ve never heard of just because you’ve never heard of it.” The entire studio was wrapped in laughter at this point. It was like some kind of crazy joke. But like a joke without a punchline, for the final question Major Ingram answered “googol.”
The Final Answer
However, just before answering, Ingram’s doubts reappeared. He seemed suddenly aware of the enormity of the risk he was taking. Instead of forgoing the money, he repeated the word “googol” one more time. And then it came – like all the confirmation that he needed – the cough.
Despite not knowing what a “googol” was, Ingram seemed not the least bit worried. His eyes were bright with excitement and he seemed the surest man in the world like he had been the one to coin the term “googol.” But he hadn’t. He didn’t even know what it was. But he answered “googol” as his final answer.
The Ingrams Celebrate
And after the break – the very long, long break – it cut back to Ingram in the hot seat and Tarrant who was seated across from him. In a booming voice, Tarrant announced that “googol” was indeed the right answer. And more importantly, Major Ingram had just won £1,000,000. Ingram celebrated wildly as Tarrant congratulated the successful contestant.
Next, Diana Ingram was welcomed onto the main area of the studio where she could celebrate her husband’s victory. Diana looked stunned, shocked, and at a loss. In her shoes, who wouldn’t have been? In an incredulous turn of events, Major Ingram had become the third winner of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”
The Producers Were Furious
To say the show’s producers were suspicious was an understatement. “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” producers refused to pay the Major his prize winnings. Ingram’s route to the £1,000,000 just raised too many flags. With that kind of money at stake, no former contestants took such risks.
It was like Major Ingram had been given all the cheat codes to an extremely difficult or near-impossible game. Of course, this was what had been in the minds of the producers. The episode wasn’t aired. Instead, the producers used the recording to go through the night’s events and see if they could pick up anything strange.
The Secret Is Discovered
It was after reviewing the live recording – including the sounds which had been recorded that the technical crew and producers picked up on Whittock’s coughing. Of course, he wouldn’t have been filmed at the time, but the sound personnel had still picked up his coughing – loud and clear. Another fact also came to light – apparent in Ingram’s behavior.
After hearing the cough, he went from having not the foggiest idea to being somewhat confident. In fact, the contender who was seconds ago appeared stressed, after hearing the cough, seemed rather chirpy and positive. It was like he had been given the cheat codes after all.
Charles Defends Himself
According to the £1,000,000-winner, it was his positive attitude and bright outlook that had been his cheat code all along. He explained that initially he had been defensive – and had played it safe by relying on his lifelines to get him through to the next rounds. Certainly, as the quiz show progressed, Ingram appeared more positive.
Relying on Ingram’s explanation for the events in question, he should have been the poster child for the positive-thinking movement. For sure, if the positive-thinking movement needed any hard evidence, Ingram was all the proof they needed. Ingram couldn’t really base his success on anything else because he didn’t have any idea what they were; not Craig David, neither Baron Haussmann, nor a googol.
The Pieces Fall into Place
On this point, the producers agreed – Ingram certainly took on a positive attitude and bright demeanor, especially after he heard the auspicious cough. But that was what just further aroused their suspicions. Not only was the cough Whittock noticeable the very moment Ingram said all the right answers, but it also didn’t appear at all when Ingram read through the other options.
Also, the Whittock seemed to develop a cough only later, as the questions got harder. Perhaps, Whittock was truly stressed for his brother-in-law. There was one more thing producers became aware of – Diana Ingram’s behavior during the Craig David question. She also started coughing then when Ingram seemed to be aiming for the wrong answer.
What Happened Afterwards
Such a big game show such as “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” couldn’t afford for the matter not to be investigated. Naturally, a scandal would blow up if they didn’t pay Ingram his winnings, but in the producers’ opinions, Ingram’s behavior was erratic.
He flip-flopped between answers until he heard the auspicious cough, which happened to come from Whittock. And somehow, Ingram – a man with much less than a clue – seemed to stumble from right answer to right answer. The producers called in the police to investigate the matter and the matter was to be settled in court two years later.
More Doubters Join the Fold
Interestingly, it was not only the producers’ suspicions that had initially been aroused but one Larry Whitehurst. Sitting next to Ingram’s brother-in-law, Whittock, Whitehurst had been another FFF contender. When Ingram was announced as the winner of £1,000,000 and applause broke out, one person did not join in the celebrations, namely Larry Whitehurst.
He had been suspicious all along and believed that something was awry. When the episode was finally released, it clearly shows a contestant sitting and not applauding like the others. During the court proceedings, Whitehurst brought up this point. He knew something was off and could not join in the celebrations.
Time Was Up for the Major
Speaking of the court proceedings, in March 2003, the Ingrams and Whittock found themselves on trial for Ingram’s supposed winning of the show. The three were facing a charge of using fraudulent means for the major to get his hands on the £1,000,000. Whittock explained that he had suffered from allergies.
Interestingly, when it came to Whittock’s own attempt on the quiz show (a week later), he didn’t have any problems with allergies that night. This did not paint a very favorable impression of Whittock and the Ingrams. And things were about to get much worse – much much worse. The three received a guilty verdict.
Justice Was Finally Served
A guilty verdict didn’t only mean that Major Ingram and his wife were not entitled to the winnings, but Charles, Diana, and Tecwen were all given prison sentences for two years. They had to pay a £15,000 fine each. Tecwan could finally “breathe easily” as fortunately for him he did not have to pay the additional £115,000 to cover the defense’s costs.
Though the defense lawyers benefitted from this trial, they weren’t the only ones. The cough syrup, Benylin, had a very strong reason to use the product – one that could help someone escape a guilty verdict – and decided to air a commercial for their product during “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” intervals. If that isn’t a classic joke ad, we don’t know what is.
Tarrant Weighs In
When asked much later in 2020 about his views about Charles Ingram’s infamous winning, “Millionaire” presenter, Chris Tarrant said outright he didn’t buy it and that Ingram was a cheat. While Tarrant admits that he didn’t hear any coughing, he stated that Ingram’s behavior was outright unusual.
However, Tarrant went on to explain that first and foremost, the show producers didn’t believe that a major of the British Army would be the kind of person to cheat his way to £1,000,000. Tarrant also explained that the studio didn’t go around and remove devices from audience members, so if any audience member had access to a device, they could get away with using it. For his part, Tarrant was only focused on the guest in front of him.
Tarrant Was at a Loss
Nonetheless, it was the man in front of him – and his erratic personality – that made Tarrant suspicious. Of course, during the quiz show events, he was simply confounded by the major. Tarrant explains that, no pun intended (at least we don’t think so), that Ingram was all over the show.
The “Millionaire” presenter simply couldn’t follow Ingram, the contestant had no logic for his answers and hadn’t a clue what his intended answer was. Ingram wasn’t acting like a man who had a lot of money at risk – he acted as if he were playing bingo and the risks were all part of the game.
The Ingrams Were Not Typical Winners
Interestingly, Tarrant mentioned that it really first dawned on him that something definitely was amiss only after Ingram had been crowned the winner. Though he and his wife were supposedly £1,000,000 richer, when they went to the dressing room, they started arguing. Who starts fighting after winning £1,000,000? Any individual in their right mind would be elated, overjoyed, and over the moon all at once.
Or they might have been so stunned, they wouldn’t know how to react, but the last reaction they’d have is to start a fight with the person – their husband – who just handed them £1,000,000. And this was not simply a fight, it was a massive one which could be heard through their glass door.
Tarrant Overheard a Scheme
Tarrant went on to explain that what he heard from Diana’s mouth implied a much more sinister plot at hand. He heard Diana say that Major Ingram “had went too far and had blown it.” That may be very well the case. Here Tarrant elucidated on another point.
He stated that both Whittock and Diana Ingram had been former contestants – Diana went on to win £32,000 and Whittock £8,000. Though the two were under investigation for the behavior during Major Ingram’s turn in the hot seat, nothing suspicious in their own turns in the hot seat has ever been brought up.
The Producers Have to Pay Up
This point made the defense’s case stronger. If Whittock was such a genius and knew all the answers to Charles Ingram’s final round of questions, why didn’t he just win the £1,000,000 relying on his intelligence? This would have been fair play. Another point bolstering the defense’s case is the question of the original airing. As stated, the original episode wasn’t aired. Only two years later was it released to the public.
The production and technical crew could have gone through the recording and simply highlighted Whittock’s coughing – among all the other noises – to be used to strengthen their case against Whittock and the Ingrams. Even Tarrant admitted to not hearing the coughing during the live show. The producers had to “cough” up £1,000,000.
The prosecution, however, won in the end. Diana Ingram’s initial coughing during the £32,000 question seemed to be the catalyst for Whittock’s own coughing owing to his allergies. Furthermore, when the production and technical crew reviewed the recording, it became clear as light that coughing seemed to be the modus operandi for the thieving three’s route to winning the £1,000,000.
Not only could a cough clearly be heard every time Ingram voiced the right answer, but it showed a change in Ingram’s demeanor – his supposed positive demeanor that miraculously brought about his incredible win. And incredible it was – especially for the producers, for they gave no credibility whatsoever to the trio.
Was Ingram Actually a Cheat?
Of course, whether the Ingrams and Whittock are truly guilty of cheating is still being debated. Some make the case that “Millionaire” producers simply did not want to “cough” up the £1,000,000. There is a reason why “Slumdog Millionaire” was an incredible box-office hit. Actually, as boring as it sounds, a credible box-office hit. The producers were accused of tweaking the sounds to make Whittock’s cough more noticeable than they were.
Also, there were mentions of other previous “Millionaire” winners like Judith Keppel where audience members also coughed during the events of her episode. While the truth remains unknown, one thing we can assure you is that Whittock’s coughing didn’t help Ingram during his line of questioning in court. That lifeline had certainly expired.
A Revisit from the Show’s Former Ghost
Early we mentioned that Major Ingram and co. love trivia quiz shows. You might think that after the enormous scandal, having to go to trial, and the subsequent disgrace the family suffered, the Ingrams would call it quits on quiz shows. That hasn’t been the case. The Ingrams have appeared on quiz shows such as “The Games,” “Wife Swap,” and “The Weakest Link.” We have to give the former major and his wife credit here.
“The Weakest Link” presenter, Anne Robinson has been known as a formidable and unapologetic host. She’s not afraid to give contestants a bit of lip and a contestant such as Ingrams would make easy targets. Nonetheless, the Ingrams made appearances on the show for the celebrity couple edition and were voted out fourth.
It’s not all bad news for the Ingrams. In their own right, the couple became celebrities. With such a profound love for “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and the coughing scandal, not only were the Ingrams an easy target for jokes but for money-making schemes. In 2015, the book “Bad Show: The Quiz, The Cough, The Millionaire Major” was published by an investigative journalist, Bob Woffindin, and oddly a former grandmaster chess player, James Plaskett.
The play “Quiz” was held at the Minerva Theatre in Grichester. The play enjoyed a month’s airplay – which was much longer than the original airing of the “Millionaire” episode. In 2020, the play was adapted for TV and had success in the UK, the USA, and Ireland only to Ingram’s further embarrassment.
The Major's Legacy Lives On
The drama doesn’t get any more real than this. It simply doesn’t get any more tense than this. Of course, we’re not talking about what happened during this episode of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” because we didn’t see it. It wasn’t originally aired. But the drama afterward – that was real: the investigation, the scandal, and the trial.
Even two decades later, it’s a talking point and it has taken on the names “coughing” or “the coughing scandal.” What might have been a snide way of cheating the show out of £1,000,000 ended up making the show that much more popular.
You Can't Keep a Good Show Down
“Who Wants to be a Millionaire” just enjoyed much more popularity. The sheer demand for the show saw its revival. In May 2018, the 20th anniversary of the show appeared, hosted by the legendary Jeremy Clarkson. And that was just in the UK, though the show may not have been foolproof – not like they believed anyway.
The producers certainly had the correct formula to making a mega-successful quiz show. Still today its legacy is not forgotten. And it won’t probably be. But it will always be haunted by a dreaded and disembodied cough, that seemingly knew all the right answers.