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Veil off ‘Millionaire’ cheats on TV

London, April 21 (Reuters): Britons will today finally get the chance to see a British army major, his wife and a college lecturer cheating their way to the jackpot on the worldwide hit TV quiz show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire'”.

Major Charles Ingram and his wife Diana were found guilty earlier this month of hatching a plan to use a system of coded coughs from lecturer Tecwen Whittock to win the million pound top prize.

The bizarre story and trial gripped the country for months but the episode on which Ingram “won”, recorded in September 2001, has never been broadcast.

Commercial channel ITV1, which broadcasts “Millionaire”, said it would air a feature-length documentary today about the cheats along with the unseen footage from the show.

Detectives said Diana Ingram had set up the scam, speaking frequently to Whittock before the show and on the night between Ingram’s two appearances for the show’s filming.

Ingram, who served in Bosnia with the British army’s Royal Engineers, then thrilled the 300 people in the audience as he battled through 15 general knowledge questions to the jackpot, despite often appearing baffled.

Each question comes with four possible answers and Ingram would ponder aloud before making a final decision. It was during this time that the coughs from Whittock were heard.

For example, on the mill ion-pound question — the correct name for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros — he mused: “I think it is a nanomole but it could be a gigabyte... I don’t think I have heard of a googol.”

As he mentioned googol, the cough was heard and Ingram chose it as the right answer.

The audience erupted in cheers, with the show’s host Chris Tarrant telling him: “You are the most amazing contestant we have ever had. I am so proud of you.”

But the plan was rumbled when sound staff alerted police after noticing an unusual amount of coughing coming from Whittock’s direction.

Throughout the court case and since the trio have protested their innocence. However, they were found guilty, and the Ingrams were fined £15,000 each and given 18-month jail terms, suspended for two years. Whittock was fined £10,000 and given a 12-month suspended jail sentence.

“Millionaire” has become one of the most successful global television formats, broadcast to hundreds of millions of people and syndicated to more than 100 countries since it first aired in Britain in 1998.

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