The Harborough district-based police helicopter caused a national stir last week after it claimed to have captured photographic evidence of Santa Claus.
The thermal imaging camera picture was apparently taken at 1.44am on Christmas Day, a time consistent with when Father Christmas might have reached Leicestershire.
It appears to show a contraption being pulled by at least two deer or horse-like creatures.
The photo prompted amusement after it was posted to the Twitter feed of the National Police Air Service helicopter at Sulby, near Husbands Bosworth in the Harborough district.
The aircrew wrote: “Good morning and Merry Christmas all! You’ll never guess who we saw last night delivering all your presents!
“We picked up an unusual heat source on the last flight?
“Santa? Could it be? #999Crimbo.”
Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police Simon Cole, who lives in the Harborough district, saw the funny side.
He Tweeted: “What a great heat source shot. Thanks for getting #Santa round.”
Twitter user Gordon Farmer added: “I was trying for four years in security to get an image of the big man on CCTV. I’m jealous now.”
Another Twitter user quipped: “Pull him for drink-driving.”
The crew have since confirmed it was a hoax created on software package Photoshop.
It is thought the picture may have been adapted from a colour image which it was claimed was taken in Mexico in October 1998.
It came after the Metropolitan Police’s helicopter crew also took a few minutes out of their day for a Christmas hoax.
On Sunday they posted a clearly manipulated photo showing a flying sleigh in front of their helicopter, with the Tweet: “#Santa Collision Avoidance System working well, according to the night crew.”
The Eurocopter EC135 at the East Midlands Air Support Unit in Sulby covers Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Northamptonshire plus five other regions in the Midlands.
The £4.3m Eurocopter was introduced at Sulby in 2007. The Sulby base received a further £93,850 in 2009 for new computer technology.