Woody Harrelson photograph used to catch doppelganger beer thief

It was only a few months ago a 'Ross from Friends' lookalike was seen carrying beers after allegedly stealing a wallet in Blackpool, but now another Hollywood star's doppelganger has been accused of stealing alcohol.

Police in New York investigating another beer thief found there was an uncanny resemblance in the CCTV images between their suspect and Woody Harrelson.

Investigators were initially at a loose end after the CCTV collected from the store was too poor quality to be run through police's facial recognition software.

New York Police Department issued a photograph of the suspect, who bared a resemblance to Woody Harrelson. Credit: NYPD

Police decided to run an image of the three-time Oscar winner Harrelson through their system in April 2017, which returned several matches and led to one arrest, a new report found.

Georgetown University's centre on privacy and technology said the use of Harrelson's photo, as opposed to using a photo of the suspect, showed there were flaws in using such techniques to identify suspects.

Clare Garvie, one of the centre's researchers, said: "The stakes are too high in criminal investigations to rely on unreliable - or wrong - inputs."

She added: "It is one thing for a company to build a face recognition system designed to help individuals find their celebrity doppelganger or painting lookalike for entertainment purposes.

Police issued a photograph of a suspect (left) who resembled Ross from Friends (right). Credit: PA

"It's quite another to use these techniques to identify criminal suspects, who may be deprived of their liberty and ultimately prosecuted based on the match."

The New York Police Department said the use of facial recognition was only used to find leads and would not be the sole basis for an arrest.

The report found facial recognition technology helped the NYPD solve around 2,900 cases in more than five years.

The Woody Harrelson case comes after Abdulah Husseini, the man arrested on suspicion of stealing a wallet in Blackpool, sparked headlines around the world for his uncanny resemblance to Friends star David Schwimmer, who played Ross in the hit US sitcom.

Schwimmer's response went viral online after he recreated the photo by carrying a crate beer while looking guiltily at a CCTV camera.