A couple sparked a major police search after claiming their three-year-old daughter had gone missing so they could get a free lift home.
More than 40 police officers were drafted in after the pair, who were on a seaside day trip to Hornsea, East Yorkshire, and had spent all their cash on drink, said the girl had disappeared from the beach.
After a major hunt involving Humberside Fire and Rescue, Humber Coastguard and volunteers from Hornsea Inshore Rescue, it emerged that the couple, who had travelled from Hull, did not even have a daughter.
Humberside Police said all available units were told to attend after it was reported that the youngster had been missing for five hours. Officers also requested police and RAF helicopters were called in, but low cloud prevented them from joining the search, and local hospitals were contacted.
However, the hunt was called off several hours later after a taxi driver who took the couple from Hull to Hornsea told police they did not have a child with them. The pair eventually admitted they fabricated the story after they spent their return cab fare drinking in the town.
A member of the Humberside Police neighbourhood policing team which was involved in the incident said: "Realising they had insufficient funds to get home, they made up the story about the missing child in the hope it would get them a free lift home courtesy of ourselves.
"The mentality of these people beggars belief, diverting precious and finite police resources away from areas where there may well have been a genuine need for them. It transpired the couple did not actually have any children - probably a blessed relief as you could hardly call them fit and proper parents."
A spokeswoman for Hornsea Inshore Rescue, which sent a team of volunteers to help with the search for the girl, said it was "frustrating", adding that she hoped the couple "have learned their lesson".
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a 37-year-old man, who has been charged with wasting police time and failed to appear at Beverley Magistrates' Court.
A 20-year-old woman admitted wasting police time and accepted a caution following the incident on July 5.