Major Charles Ingram is the first person to have been stripped of the grand prize from the UK quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? after he was caught cheating. Ingram originally won the prize of £1,000,000 (about US$1,600,000) in September 2001, but his prize was held after tapes revealed that Ingram and lecturer Tecwen Whittock used a system of coughs to collaborate to win the top prize.
Ingram won the fastest finger competition by correctly assembling the title of the novel Death on the Nile in 3.97 seconds, faster than any other contender. He breezed through the first six questions, earning £1,000. After using two of his three lifelines (phone a friend and ask the audience), Ingram came to the end of the day's show with £4,000 and only one lifeline (50/50) remaining. Ingram was relieved that he had survived so far, and the host Chris Tarrant was impressed by Ingram's progress despite Ingram's ambivalence through many of the earlier questions.
The second day of play saw Ingram tell Tarrant that he was going on a "counter-attack" and that he was going to be more assertive, but he was puzzled by the £8,000 question, his first of the night:
"Who was the second husband of Jacqueline Kennedy? Adnan Khashoggi, Ronald Reagan, Aristotle Onassis, or Rupert Murdoch."
"Millionaire" is known, perhaps infamous, for allowing contestants a virtually unlimited time to ponder their answer choices before settling on a final answer. Major Ingram read his four answer choices aloud, and there was an audible cough on the tape twice when he mentioned Onassis's name. Onassis was the correct answer, and Ingram advanced to the £16,000 question.
After burning his last lifeline correctly answering the £32,000 question, Ingram was five questions away from the grand prize. It was at this point that Ingram showed little knowledge of the questions being asked, and Tarrant's incredulity grew mainfold. For the £500,000 question, second from the top, the BBC transcript illustrates this uncertainty better than I can:
"Baron Haussmann is best known for his planning of which city? Rome, Paris, Berlin, Athens."
Ingram: "I think it is Berlin. I think Haussmann is a more German name than Italian or Parisian or Athens. I am really not sure. I'm never sure. If I was at home, I would be saying Berlin if I was watching this on TV."
A cough was then heard, which the prosecution claim sounded like someone saying the word "no".
Ingram: "I do not think it's Paris."
Ingram: "I do not think it's Athens, I am sure it is not Rome. I would have thought it's Berlin but there's a chance it is Paris but I am not sure. Think, think, think! I know I have read this, I think it is Berlin, it could be Paris. I think it is Paris."
Ingram: "Yes, I am going to play."
Tarrant: "Hang on, where are we?"
Ingram: "I am just talking to myself. It is either Berlin or Paris. I think it is Paris."
Ingram: "I am going to play Paris."
Tarrant: "You were convinced it was Berlin."
Ingram: "I know. I think it's Paris."
Tarrant: "He thought it was Berlin, Berlin, Berlin. You changed your answer to Paris. That brought you £500,000. What a man! What a man. Quite an amazing man."
A similar exchange occurred during the final million-pound question, which concluded in the correct answer.
Celador Productions, who produces Millionaire? examined the tapes and discovered the coughing that led Ingram to many of the harder answers. A trial followed that accused Ingram, his wife Diana, and Whittock of attempting to defraud the show. The trial itself became a media spectacle throughout the UK and even the world. In the end, Celador won, and will not have to pay the top prize. Other damages are still being considered.
Along with a program explaining the trial, ITV1 finally ran the Ingram episode of Millionaire in April 2003. (Heschelian notes that "it supposedly had the most viewers of any factual programme since Diana's funeral.") The movie rights have also been sold to some enterprising producer who has sights set on the next "Quiz Show scandal" film.