How the mumbling major is attempting to carve a TV career

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The Independent Online

Nervous, mumbling and out of work, Charles Ingram is one of a number of unlikely characters to turn their infamy into a fledgling media career.

Ingram, desperate for an income after he was forced to quit the Army for cheating on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, hired an agent to tout himself and his wife, Diana, as celebrities.

Interest in the Major and his "Lady Macbeth" wife reached a peak when ITV broadcast their fraud in a special edition of Millionaire and contracts with Channel 4, Five and the BBC were soon to follow. After yesterday's court ruling their agent, David Thomas, was optimistic for his clients. "Love him or loathe him, you cannot escape the fact that Charles puts bums on seats. You only have to look at the audience figures relating to the programmes he has appeared on."

Their greatest success so far has been an appearance this month on Channel 4's Celebrity Wife Swap, recorded before the fraud case that ended in yesterday's sentence. The ex-soldier played host at his Wiltshire home to the Big Brother contestant Jade Goody while his wife endured a week with Goody's boyfriend, Jeff Brazier, in their Essex flat.

On the same night "Charles and Di" appeared on the general knowledge quiz show 19 Keys hosted by Richard Bacon. The BBC says a documentary about the Ingrams filmed over the past five months will be shown as a Real Story special on BBC1 on Monday.

The Ingrams have been more successful than their accomplice in the Millionaire fraud, the former college lecturer Tecwen Whittock. He has touted his services as an after-dinner speaker.

The Ingrams have much in common with the disgraced ex-Tory MP Neil Hamilton and his wife, Christine.

The Hamiltons have become the trailblazers among those who have been lambasted in the press only to parade themselves in television shows.

Soon after the MP lost his seat to Martin Bell, who stood on an anti-corruption ticket, the Hamiltons appeared on Have I Got News for You, pocketing an estimated £15,000 and continuing the show's tradition of humiliating guests. Further television appearances culminated in Christine's performance in I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

James Hewitt, another former military man who became persona non grata, has boosted his income with an appearance on Channel 4's reality show The Games.

Stephen Lambert, director of programmes at Channel 4, said: "Charles thinks that he and his wife have been painted as villains. He thinks they'll both look better on a programme that shows what they are really like."

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