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TV quiz cough: Dust allergy blamed

The Ingrams deny conspiring to cheat their way to a million.
The Ingrams deny conspiring to cheat their way to a million.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A college lecturer accused of using coded coughs to help an army officer pocket the top prize on the UK version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" blamed a dust allergy and coincidence for his arrest, a London court heard.

Tecwen Whittock, who insisted he had been a "law abiding citizen" all his life, told police he did not think Major Charles Ingram had cheated his way to a 1 million ($1.6m) cheque.

"But if a guy has gone and defrauded them then he must face the consequences," he added.

London's Southwark Crown Court was told the father of four, who was interviewed by detectives just over two months after the senior soldier's controversial appearance on the popular ITV quiz show, added his allegedly illicit coughs had been "totally innocent."

"It can only be a coincidence that my coughing correlated in any way with any answers given by the major," he maintained.

Whittock, 53, of Whitchurch, south Wales who is head of business studies at Pontypridd College, Ingram, 39, and his 38-year-old nursery nurse wife Diana, both of Easterton, Wiltshire, western England, each deny a single charge of "procuring a valuable security by deception" on September 10, 2001.

The prosecution has claimed the college lecturer, who was one of the ten "Fastest Finger First" contestants while the major was in the programme's "hot seat" used a total of 19 strategically placed coughs to help the officer choose most of the correct answers from the four options offered after each question.

On Thursday game show host Chris Tarrant, giving evidence in the case of two contestants accused of cheating their way to 1 million ($1.6 million), said there was a "pattern" to the coughing that prompted an army major to win the jackpot.


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