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Millionaire entrants 'in cahoots'

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LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Two contestants on hit game show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" were "in cahoots" to win the jackpot, a fellow competitor told a court on Tuesday.

Graham Whitehurst told jurors how he listened out when army major Charles Ingram, 39, faced the million-pound question.

Whitehurst feared 53-year-old college lecturer Tecwen Whittock would cough, allegedly signaling the right answer to Ingram.

"I was staring at Tecwen Whittock saying "Don't you, don't you dare."

"I was waiting for the major to say "googol" (the correct answer) to see what Mr Whittock was going to do," Whitehurst said at Southwark Crown Court in London.

"(Ingram) seemed to dismiss "googol," and then he went round the houses and as soon as he came to "googol," Tecwen Whittle went 'cough, cough'," Whitehurst said.

"I had become fairly sure that Tecwen Whittock and the major were in cahoots," added Whitehurst, a pub quiz fan who has been on the show four times.

Ingram, of the Royal Engineers, together with Whittock, deny "procuring a valuable security by deception" -- namely the 1 million prize. Ingram's wife Diana, 38, also denies the charge.

The prosecution alleges the coughing signaled the correct answers.

Melinda Rogers, an associate producer for Celador, the company behind the globally syndicated quiz, interviewed Ingram before he appeared on the show.

Ingram was confident he would win more than the 32,000 his wife won when she appeared on the show, Rogers said.

Rogers confirmed she had written at the time: "He can be a bit of a gambler."

"With a big win, he was hoping that they would be able to buy a house," she told the court.

Rogers said Whittock was an unassuming character who had prepared for the show by reading "The Big Book of Stories and Nursery Rhymes."

The Ingrams' behavior arose suspicions too, the court heard.

Security guard, Nigel Norman, described a row in the couple's dressing room after Ingram had won the 1 million.

"At one point Mrs Ingram raised her voice and Mr Ingram told her to shut up," Norman said.

A researcher for Celador, Lisa Telford, told the court how the couple's mood swung in the time it took her to get a pint of bitter and a cigar for Charles Ingram and a glass of red wine for his wife.

"The atmosphere in the room had changed. Previously when I came it was obvious they were shocked. When I came in a second time they weren't happy and they were dismissive of me," Telford said.

The case continues.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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