A COLLEGE lecturer accused of helping an army major cheat his way to the top prize on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? portrayed himself yesterday as a serial quiz show failure.
Tecwen Whittock, who allegedly helped Charles Ingram, an officer with the Royal Engineers, to win the television show with a string of coded coughs, said his performance on a number of TV and radio programmes had been less than dazzling.
He had won a booby prize on Sale of the Century, went out in the second round of Brain of Britain, failed in Fifteen-To-One after getting his first two answers wrong, and lost half his winnings on The People Versus.
The economics graduate, who worked in banking before embarking on a career in education, told Southwark Crown Court, London, that the subject of cookery had often proved his downfall.
It was the same story when the father of four took the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? "hot seat" minutes after allegedly helping Ingram dishonestly pocket a 1 million cheque.
His conviction that keftedes were sweet pastries and not Greek meatballs meant he flunked the 8,000 question and left the studio with winnings of just 1,000. "I am not very good at cookery," he explained.
Whittock, 53, of Cardiff, the head of business studies at Pontypridd College, south Wales, is in the dock with Ingram and his wife, Diana, both 39, of Easterton, Wiltshire. All deny procuring the execution of a valuable security on 10 September, 2001.
The Crown has claimed that Whittock used 19 strategic coughs to help Ingram climb towards the jackpot. On the 13th day of the trial, David Aubrey QC, Whittock’s barrister, asked him a string of rapid-fire questions.
Mr Aubrey: "Were you in any way involved in a plan to help Mr Ingram cheat his way to 1 million?". Whittock: "Definitely not."
Mr Aubrey: "Do you accept during the recording of the programme on 10 September, 2001, you were coughing and coughing repeatedly?" Whittock: "Yes."
Mr Aubrey: "Were any of these coughs intended to act as a signal to Major Ingram?" Whittock: "None at all"
Mr Aubrey: "Were any of them in any way intended to help him or to give him any hint as to the correct answer to any question?" Whittock: "Not at all."
The lecturer went on: "I did not do that, I would not do that. It would be against my morals. I am just a family person. I know that going there and trying to steal 1 million - because that is what it is - is going to land me up in jail. I am aware of that and I would just not do it."
Whittock said the allegations against him had caused one of his children to drop out of university with stress, and his wife, Gillian, had been badly affected. "She is particularly stressed over it," he said.
Whittock told the court he had suffered from a persistent cough for many years. At first he thought it was a combination of hay-fever and a dust allergy. But then, he said, as he took a couple of inhalers from out of a pocket, he discovered he had asthma as well.
On the day of recording Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, Whittock said he seemed to have a frog in his throat as he sat in one of the fastest-finger-first seats during Ingram’s performance.
A drink of water would have been a "simple remedy", he said, but unfortunately he did not get one until the major’s 14th question - for 500,000.
Whittock said he had decided to try for the show after watching Adrian Pollock, one of Diana Ingram’s brothers, appearing on it for the fourth time and winning 32,000.
He used the electoral register to track down Mr Pollock to his home in Wales and asked him for coaching on how to succeed on the show. Mr Pollock agreed and later introduced Whittock to his sister, who had also won 32,000 on the quiz.
The trial continues.