Outbreak of coughing halts 'Millionaire' trial

Matthew Beard
Tuesday 01 April 2003 00:00

The judge in the Who Wants to be a Millionaire trial adjourned proceedings yesterday because of persistent coughing from the jury.

The trial hinges on whether an Army major won the top prize in the ITV1 quiz show with the assistance of coded coughs from a member of the audience.

David Aubrey QC, for the defence, struggled to complete his final address against a chorus of coughing from some of the jury of eight women and four men. After he had concluded, the judge, Geoffrey Rivlin QC, ordered a 20-minute break and then decided he had no choice but to delay his summing up. As the jury took their seats in Southwark Crown Court in London, he told them: "I'm very sorry some of you have got difficulties. I understand you feel it would be best if I were to begin my summing up tomorrow morning. Is that right?" Most nodded in agreement.

Major Charles Ingram and his wife Diane, both 39, from Easterton, Wiltshire, are accused of cheating their way to the £1m prize with the help of coded coughs from Tecwen Whittock, 53, head of business studies at Pontypridd College, South Wales. All three deny deception in September 2001.

Before the interruption Mr Aubrey reminded the court that his client, Mr Whittock, had accused the prosecution of mounting a "chocolate box" case that only picked up on the coughs that coincided with the right answers. The trial is expected to resume today.

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