World’s Most Repetitive Police Chases apart, you don’t often get to see a real crime committed on TV, especially when it’s a million-pound fraud. But a jury decided Major Charles Ingram’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire “win” was fraudulent, and after seeing this, there isn’t much doubt that they were right.
With hindsight (and that court verdict) the scam itself seemed laughably obvious, as, question after question, Ingram read out the four possible answers and his co-conspirator Tecwin Whittock coughed obligingly after the correct one. The best – and craziest – bit came when Ingram almost blew the half-million question, forcing Whittock, to cough a desperate, clearly-audible “No!”. No wonder Ingram’s wife (surely a cert for Cruella De Ville in panto opposite the Hamiltons this Christmas) gave him a Force-Ten bollocking in the dressing room afterwards.
We did learn some fascinating things, though, not least how Tecwin knew so many of the answers (he asked the other contestants-in-waiting), and that there may possibly have been two different scams on the two days of recording, the first involving mobile phones and spotted by studio staff. Most fascinating of all, however, was the revelation that Chris Tarrant sounds like Paul Whitehouse’s “Whey, Whoooo!” chancer when he’s not putting on a posh voice for the cameras. Apparently the Serious Fraud Office have been informed, but feel there isn’t enough evidence for a prosecution.
Martin Bashir took the role of investigative reporter, an oddly modest assignment for the man who so searingly exposed the inner life of the world’s greatest superstar. His interviewees were a bit easier this time, being mainly studio staff and contestants keen to answer penetrative questions along the lines of: “Did you suspect fraud at this stage?” with a soul-baring “yes” (an exchange which, come to think of it, might well occur if he re-interviewed Michael Jackson today). The really hot interview would have been Bashir vs Mrs Ingram, who would probably have made Jackson look a complete pussycat. Sadly, though, the Ingrams hadn’t been booked. Another time, perhaps.