Fame and fortune beyond the Hamiltons' wildest dreams await Major Millionaire

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The Independent Online

Not since the public disgrace of Neil and Christine Hamilton have a couple been in a position to cash in so lucratively on their notoriety. An avalanche of offers from around the world is descending on Charles and Diana Ingram, the couple at the centre of the Who Wants To Be a Millionaire scandal. Among them is even a chance to host their own American quiz show.

After weeks of public vilification, the Ingrams could be about to make millions after all, through deals ranging from commercials for cough sweets and alcoholic drinks to Hollywood movies.

Last night, the publicist Max Clifford predicted that the couple could "win back" within a year the £1m they ultimately lost by trying to swindle the ITV1 game show out of its jackpot. Fellow PR consultant Mark Borkowski, meanwhile, advised them to exploit their notoriety by mimicking the antics of the Hamiltons.

Since they narrowly escaped prison sentences three weeks ago after being found guilty of trying to defraud Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, Major Ingram and his wife, Diana, both 39, have hardly been out of the public eye. While much of the coverage of their failed scam has derided them, the couple, from Easterton, Wiltshire, have been interviewed on every show from ITV1's This Morning to BBC News 24.

Over the next few weeks, viewers can expect to see them on Channel 4's Richard and Judy and Loose Lips, a chat show hosted by Melinda Messenger on Living TV.

Close friends say they have been bombarded with offers from "virtually all" of the 106 countries where the quiz is broadcast.

"They have had myriad commercial offers, ranging from blockbuster movies and publishing deals through having their likenesses put on T-shirts to advertising alcoholic drinks," one friend said last night. "It's been a bewildering array."

Responding to news of the offers, Mr Borkowski, the publicist promoting the controversial XXX show in London, said the Ingrams must act quickly.

"The Ingrams can learn a lot from the Hamiltons. There's a Kleenex advert waiting for them to cough into to start with," he said. "With the Hamiltons you had this slightly dim-looking man and a powerful, strident woman. The Ingrams potentially have the same sort of qualities. Although she doesn't strike me as the show-woman Christine Hamilton was, he is a weak, louche, oafish ex-Army guy, and that could fit them into a similar mould."

But he added: "If they play it right, they could potentially 'own' the cough or the throat as 'brands'. But if they fail to act quickly, within months they will be nothing but zits on past tabloid front pages."

Mr Clifford, however, suggests a different tactic. He believes that, without ever having to admit their guilt, the Ingrams could make more money by revealing the "inside story" of their crime to a third party. "They want to get Colonel Blimp or whoever to come forward and give a newspaper the story of how they tried to do it. They don't admit anything themselves, but they give an undertaking that they won't sue the paper in question, and they can be paid indirectly by splitting the proceeds with their friend," he said.

David Thomas, the Ingrams' spokesman, said that the couple's priority was to clear their names – not to make money from a crime they insist they did not commit. "They haven't received a penny for any interviews done so far, but they've raised lots of money for charities," he said. "With all the offers coming in from around the world, they are still here in this country, facing a pretty hostile media, and not in Hollywood."