The case against Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? cheats Charles and Diana Ingram is “ludicrous” and “preposterous” – and new analysis of the coughing at the heart of the scandal will cast doubt on their convictions, their lawyer has said.
The couple, along with Welsh college lecturer Tecwen Whittock, were found guilty of using an elaborate coughing scheme to cheat their way to the £1 million top prize during a high-profile trial in 2003.
The incident and ensuing court case, in which they denied a single charge of procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception, is the subject of the current ITV three-part drama Quiz, scripted by Brexit: An Uncivil War writer James Graham, and starring Matthew Macfadyen and Sian Clifford as the couple and Michael Sheen as show host Chris Tarrant.
Rhona Friedman, their criminal defence solicitor, told the PA news agency she is working on the submission of legal arguments to the Court of Appeal following new analysis of the coughs that apparently tipped off Ingram to the right answer.
She said: “Back at the time of the trial in 2003, cough analysis wasn’t a thing, and in fact there was a prosecution expert who came along and said that cough analysis is uncharted territory.
“Advances have taken place since then which does allow analysis which lends itself to some degree of authorship.
“I don’t want to over-state it, but there is an ability now to discern between different people making coughs in a way that wasn’t possible in 2003.”
She added: “There are other troubling aspects about the integrity of the trial exhibits that, together with the new cough analysis, work to, I think, undermine the safety of the conviction.”
As shown in the second episode of the TV show, the Ingrams’ joy at winning Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? was short-lived and suspicions were raised almost immediately.
They were both found guilty of conspiring to cheat the show and handed suspended jail terms.
Whittock was convicted of assisting the Ingrams and given a 12-month suspended sentence and ordered to pay a fine and costs.
Asked if she is convinced of the couple’s innocence, Ms Friedman said: “Yeah I am convinced actually, I am.
“I looked at the evidence, I’m not just being bamboozled by personality and the evidence is really troubling.
“I think if the trial had been done a different way, I don’t think they would have been convicted. That is not to criticise anybody, you can always look back in hindsight and say something should have happened a different way, but I do think there were intrinsic aspects of the trial process which were unfair to them.
“And perhaps they might not have been allowed if a different approach had been taken.
“So looking at that and then standing back and just looking at the whole thing logically, you’ve got three people who have never met each other before.
“You’ve got Charles who had never even been in contact with this guy Whittock, who is supposed to recognise his coughs while he’s sitting in a hot seat, under studio lights, with Chris Tarrant in his face, doing all his Chris Tarrant-isms, in front of millions of people, and play act as if he doesn’t know an answer or he’s not being suggested the answer, it’s just preposterous, it’s ludicrous, it just doesn’t hang together.
“And then you meet Charles and Diana and they are not people who are capable of entering into this kind of criminal conspiracy, or any kind of criminal conspiracy, where they would risk everything in this way.”
While the Ingrams avoided jail, they were publicly ridiculed and continue to be notorious for the crime.
Despite this, they continued to appear on TV.
Charles starred on Channel 4’s The Games in 2004, alongside other celebrity guests such as model Linda Lusardi and Boyzone singer Shane Lynch.
In 2006, they appeared as a couple on a celebrity version of The Weakest Link, alongside the likes of racing pundit John McCririck and his long-suffering wife Jenny.
Memorably, the Ingrams also appeared on Celebrity Wife Swap, with Big Brother’s Jade Goody and her then-partner Jeff Brazier.
Despite their flirtations with celebrity, the Ingrams reportedly declared themselves bankrupt for a fourth time last year.
The couple now live in Bath and sell custom jewellery.