TV quiz trial told of wife's 'pager plot'

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The Independent Online

The wife of an Army major accused of cheating on Who Wants to be a Millionairewas behind an elaborate plot using hidden pagers, a court was told yesterday.

Diana Ingram practised at home sending messages from her land line and a mobile phone to four pagers that were to be worn by her husband, Charles, while he was on the ITV show, the prosecution claimed. Nicholas Hilliard, for the prosecution, asked why, on the eve of her husband's first appearance on the show, she had used a variety of telephones. "Your land line at home at 18.03, your mother's mobile at 18.04, the land line again also at 18.04, your mother's mobile at 18.05 and then back to your land line," he said. Mrs Ingram replied: "Well, I just did."

The barrister suggested that the couple had the pagers at home and were "practising" to find out which message arrived first, one from a land line or one from a mobile phone. The prosecution claims the plot was dropped because it was unworkable and they resorted to a system of coded coughs from a member of the audience.

Appearing in the dock of Southwark Crown Court for the first time yesterday, Mrs Ingram, 39, said she used the pagers to contact her brothers, both computer consultants, who had decided to "disappear" after encountering business problems.

Earlier, Mrs Ingram said that her husband had won the top prize through "taking risks" rather than deception. She said: "I would not have played for £1m but I don't like taking risks like he does."

Mrs Ingram and her husband are accused of acting with Tecwen Whittock, a college lecturer, to procure "a valuable security" by deception on 10 September 2001. The prosecution claims that Mr Whittock coughed strategically to guide Mr Ingram to the £1m prize. All three deny the charges.

During further questioning, Mrs Ingram was asked how she came to know Mr Whittock. Mrs Ingram told the jury that he, like her brother Adrian, was very interested in becoming a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. For some months the two men had discussed the best way of "increasing your chances" of being picked to appear, she said. The trial continues.