ITV’s ‘Quiz’ has definitely left the public questioning the conviction of the ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ £1 million cheat Major Charles Ingram in 2003, but what the programme did not reveal is actually more fascinating
“After all that, can we be sure the Ingrams were guilty?” asked The Telegraph’s Chris Bennion in his review of the final episode of the three-part hit, Quiz, and indeed the ending has achieved the inevitable and will likely reignite interest in a story that dates back to 2001.
For the few that may not remember what occurred, a Major Charles Ingram won the maximum prize of £1 million on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? on the 10th September 2001, the day before the 9/11 attacks on America. Ingram’s wife and her brother, Adrian Pollock, had previously each won £32,000.
Immediately after the jackpot was scooped, the programme’s production company, Celador, suspecting Ingram had cheated suspended payment of the winnings. The police were called in and ultimately, after a four week trial in March and April 2003 at Southwark Crown Court, the Ingrams and another contestant, a lecturer and their alleged accomplice, Tecwen Whittock, were convicted of “procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception.” All three were given prison sentences suspended for two years, fined £15,000 each and ordered to pay £10,000 towards prosecution costs. These sums were later reduced on appeal.
Whilst many will know that Ingram was then forced to resign his commission as a major after 17 years and that he and his wife appeared on countless television shows including The Weakest Link, sadly Quiz did not delve into other bizarre twists in this “eccentric” pair’s life in the time since their “fifteen minutes of coughing fame/shame.”
Aside from being bankrupted four times in the intervening years (most recently in 2019), the former army officer chopped three of his toes off in a freak lawnmower accident in September 2010. Ironically, the “cheat” and then resident of Easterton, Wiltshire did the injury when he “slipped on a rotten apple.” Of the incident, Ingram recalled “lying on the grass” and thinking: “Oh dear… I certainly won’t be mowing any lawns again soon.”
Earlier, yet not long after his Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? conviction in November 2003, Ingram was convicted of an entirely unrelated insurance fraud. Found guilty of obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception and of deception by trying to claim on that policy after an alleged burglary, the already disgraced son of a retired RAF wing commander added a two-year conditional discharge to his burgeoning rap sheet.
The Ingrams, now, but not revealed in the show either, are based in Maiden Bradley, Warminster and run a non-registered for UK VAT company that trades as ‘Diana Ingram.’ It sells Murano glass jewellery for prices ranging from £15 to £75 and of her wares, Mrs Ingram states: “Most products listed can be altered for shape, colour, length, etc., though prices may vary. I ship worldwide and nothing is too much trouble – I regularly offer personalised wrapping and buy and write birthday cards too!” No mention is made as to whether any kind of cheat sheets can be enclosed if requested sadly.
Charles Ingram, meanwhile, has kept himself busy on Twitter since September 2013 using the handle @gallantfive. He describes himself as: “English, Irish, European, Family, Labour, LUFC and proud remainer wanting a fairer world” and has over 7,100 followers. Whilst describing Quiz as “simply brilliant” and “terrifyingly accurate,” his family have plainly had a few visits from the media as a result of the show. Now represented by one Skye Redman at 89up, a firm that somewhat immodestly has self-appointed itself as “Europe’s biggest communications agency for great causes,” the ex-major this week tweeted:
“Media: Please #StayHomeSaveLives. In any event I assure you that doorstepping is wasting your time. My solicitor, Rhona Friedman, is available for comment via phone or video conferencing. For interviews please contact Skye Redman at 89up.”
After the conclusion of Quiz, Friedman told the Guardian: “I just know that they did not do it… I just feel very sorry for them.” She intends to file paperwork associated with the case in the summer “with hopes for a hearing at the end of the year,” and given the reaction of the public after the ending of this week’s dramatisation, one thing’s for sure: We’ve not seen the last of ‘The Coughing Major’ and his ever-so-earnest wife just yet.