A Missouri man who spent nearly 17 years in jail for a robbery he said he never committed has been freed after supporters found a lookalike of him.

Richard Antony Jones was convicted of a robbery at a Walmart in Roleland Park, Kansas, in 1999 despite maintaining his innocence.

Jones has now been freed after two organisations examining his case discovered he had a doppelganger who not only looked similar but also shared the same first name and lived close to where the crime was committed at the time. Jones lived over the state line in Kansas City.

The discovery of the doppelganger by lawyers from the Midwest Innocence Project and the Paul E. Wilson Defender Project at the University of Kansas meant that victims and other witnesses could no longer be certain that Jones had committed the robbery in 1999.

Jones has now been freed by Johnson County District Judge Kevin Moriarty after he ruled no jury could convict him based on the new evidence. There was no DNA or fingerprint evidence to link Jones to the crime and he even presented an alibi that he was with his girlfriend and other family members in Kansas City on the day of the robbery.

During the hearing, lawyers also suggested the photos of potential suspects shown to victims and eyewitnesses were "highly suggestive" as Jones was the only male in the six photographs who resembled the description of the robbery suspect. All of the witnesses described the suspect as a Hispanic or light-skinned African American.

There is no suggestion that the lookalike, known only as "Ricky", committed the robbery in 1999 and he denied being responsible while appearing at Jones's testimonial.

Jones's attorney Alice Craig told KansasCity.com she was "floored" by how much Jones and Ricky looked alike. "Everybody has a doppelganger," Craig said. "Luckily we found his."

Kansas police
Police created this photo lineup featuring Jones (top left) to show to witnesses Kansas City Police Department/GoFundMe