Quiz writer James Graham: I have my own doubts about the Coughing Major’s guilt

The screenwriter behind ITV's drama exploring Who Wants to Be a Millionaire's coughing scandal says that Major Charles Ingram and wife Diana were "completely unfairly villainised"

Quiz

Quiz screenwriter James Graham has revealed that he has “doubts” over whether the so-called “Coughing Major” Charles Ingram and his wife Diana were guilty of cheating on the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.

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Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, he said: “I don’t judge the jury for making the decision that they did, they were presented with the evidence they were presented with, and they came to a decision [of a guilty verdict], and that currently is the decision. And the Ingrams still maintain their innocence, and the producers and the police maintain that they are guilty.

“But certainly having been presented with new evidence, I have my own doubts about the clarity of that narrative.”

Graham, who has adapted his play of the same name into an ITV drama starring Matthew Macfadyen and Sian Clifford, hopes that TV audiences will rethink their preconceptions about the real-life case after watching the show.

“There were so many things that I found extraordinary about the case that don’t make sense,” he said. “The Ingrams and Tecwen Whittock [their alleged accomplice, whose coughs supposedly alerted the Major to the right answers], had never spent any time in a room with each other, and only had one phone call that lasted eight minutes, as fans of the show who discovered they were going be on the same programme together.

“The fact that he [Whittock] has a diagnosed cough, he has an asthmatic condition that he can’t control. Would you pick someone who has an uncontrollable cough to cough at specific moments, during a really tense game show? Maybe you wouldn’t.”

Many viewers’ knowledge of the case will have been gleaned from watching YouTube videos that appear to show the moments that Whittock’s coughs coincide with the correct answers being read aloud. 

LEFTBANK PICTURES FOR ITV QUIZ MATTHEW MACFADYEN,SIAN CLIFFORD,MICHAEL SHEEN AND HELEN MCCRORY STAR. EPISODE 2 Pictured: MATTHEW MACFADYEN as Charles Ingram,SIAN CLIFFORD as Diana Ingram and MICHAEL SHEEN as Chris Tarrant. This image is the copyright of Leftbank Pictures and is only to be used in relation to QUIZ.

“If you watch the episode now, from previous documentaries or online, you can hear the coughs and they’re really loud,” Graham said. “I hadn’t realised that those coughs had been amplified by the prosecution to replicate the experience of what they thought it must have been like to be Charles on the show, listening out for the coughs.

“But actually what we’re listening to has been by definition manipulated, and that was the evidence that was presented to the jury – so there’s lots of things that are worth questioning.”

He concluded:” At the heart of this story were real people who I think were completely unfairly villainised and mocked, and to readdress that is really exciting”.

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Quiz starts on Sunday May 31 at 10/9c on AMC