Scores of police officers and firefighters dragged the Anacostia River for hours last week in search of the bodies of a fictional woman and child all because a Southeast man wanted to escape the wrath of his wife when he arrived home late.

Brady R. Scott admitted to police yesterday that he made up the story last week that he had seen a woman throw an infant off of the John Philip Sousa Bridge in Southeast Washington and then jump in herself because he needed to explain to his wife why he had arrived home late, D.C. police sources said. When Scott's wife heard his account, she insisted that he call the police, sources said.

Scott, 33, of 2829 S St. SE was arrested yesterday and charged with making a false police report. He faces a fine of up to $300 or imprisonment for up to 10 days, police said.

Police said Scott told them he was under the influence of drugs the afternoon that he reported the incident. Scott, who is in a methadone program for drug abuse, told police yesterday that he had hallucinated when he drove over the bridge.

Nine police officers and firefighters on three police patrol boats and one fire boat dragged the Anacostia River for several hours in the rain Nov. 10 while about 15 police officers from the homicide branch, special operations division, 7th District and police information office lined the shore. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. also was on the scene waiting for information.

Several police returned to the Anacostia River the next morning and searched for the bodies, but had to stop the search because of the snowy weather.

"Incidents that involve water rescue operations require a significant amount of manpower and equipment," said Capt. William White III. "Furthermore, false reports of this type could well prevent the department from providing police service in bona fide life-threatening situations."

Scott, who works as a security guard at a nursing home at 3333 Wisconsin Ave. NW, told police Nov. 10 that he picked up a hitchhiking woman with an infant about 1:45 p.m. at a McDonald's restaurant at Barney Circle and Pennsylvania Avenue SE near the bridge, police said.

Scott told police that as he drove over the bridge, the woman became agitated and asked him to let her out of the car. When he refused to stop, Scott said, the woman struck him with her hand, causing him to slow to nearly a stop. The woman then jumped from the car, went over to the guardrail, threw the infant off the bridge into the river and then dived in, Scott told police.

Police at first thought that Scott was reliable after calling his employer, International Security Corp., and talking to his wife. But detectives became increasingly skeptical because, despite heavy traffic on the bridge, no other witnesses called police to report the incident, even after days of heavy media coverage. Three workers on the western bank of the bridge about 75 yards away told police they did not see any such incident.

In addition, police had wondered why Scott had driven eight blocks to his home before reporting the incident.

Scott stood by his story, so police scheduled a polygraph test for him Tuesday, but he failed to show up for it.

Police were unable to determine that Scott was under the influence of drugs when he was interviewed at police headquarters the afternoon that he reported the incident.