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When it comes to spotting the difference, it would appear that some cases of mistaken identity are due to one-in-a-billion lookalikes and others are down to a hilarious lack of judgement. From unfortunate, unlikely coincidences to live TV mix ups, we’ve put together a list of the top famous mistaken identities.
As far as mistaken identities go, Brazilian Police lead the way in what not to do when on the search for criminals. In the town of Guapo they were attempting to track down a man responsible for multiple armed car jackings. At the scene of one of the crimes the Police thought they had made a breakthrough when they discovered a t-shirt and baseball cap belonging to the suspect. Thinking the man had emblazoned his own name on to the garments the Police identified the man as a Mr Harley Davidson. Now, we’re not detectives but we think he may be barking up the wrong tree.
In the days before photo ID and DNA testing, how did authorities know if a man was lying when he said he just happened to look like the culprit? Well, up until 1903 they used the ‘Bertillion method’, which measured the size and shape of various body parts of the criminals and suspects. This seemed to work well until a man named William West was arrested for crimes that he had not committed just because he had the same exact measurements as the real criminal. On this occasion, William West was lucky in that the prison he was sentenced to already contained the culprit who, in a one-in-a-billion coincidence, was also named William West. It was after this unlikely confusion that the fingerprint method was widely introduced, and officers at this prison were finally able to tell the two West’s apart.
With most cases of mistaken identities the real culprit is found in the end, but how do authorities distinguish between two sneaky suspects who are identical twins? In Germany, DNA evidence found at the scene of a jewellery heist was matched with identical twins Hassan and Abbas. However as their DNA is 99.99% the same it was impossible to tell who the real criminal was. With both suspects refusing to co-operate the police had to let them both go until further evidence is found.
In the 1930’s unfortunate Indiana man, Ralph Alsman was often described as being strikingly similar to infamous bank robber, John Dillinger. Not only did he appear to be his doppelganger but he also happened to have a facial mole in the exact same place as the wanted criminal and had a scar on the same wrist. Alsman was mistaken for Dillinger on so many occasions that he was actually arrested 17 times. Not only that but he was living in constant fear of being killed as he was also shot a total of 11 times! Eventually police killed the infamous criminal and Alsman was offered several leading Hollywood roles to play the robber in movies. It appeared he turned down all the opportunities and we’re not short of seeing why!
Even in this day and age it’s still possible to be caught in an old-fashioned identity mix up. Back in 2006, business graduate Guy Goma arrived at the BBC studios to be interviewed for a job in the IT department. At the same time, British technology expert Guy Kewney was in the reception area preparing to go on live TV to report on a court case. When the producer entered the waiting area and called for ‘Guy’, Guy Goma followed him out to what he thought was his interview. Moments later Mr Goma found himself live on TV! Only realising what was happening once the camera started rolling and he was introduced to the nation as Guy Kewney, Guy Goma’s reaction was utterly priceless. Maintaining his professionalism, Mr Goma gave his best attempts at answering questions he wasn’t qualified to answer and in the process won the admiration of the millions of viewers.