updated 9/25/2004 4:00:24 PM ET 2004-09-25T20:00:24

A 911 call that triggered a desperate search for an unidentified 4-year-old girl in distress was a hoax, authorities said Saturday.

The caller told a dispatcher Tuesday evening that her mother “got hit” and was in the bathroom and not breathing. The dispatcher kept the girl on the line as long as she could, but the child hung up after five minutes, saying she was tired.

Authorities initially believed the call was authentic because the voice sounded exactly like that of a scared little girl.

But Paterson Police Chief Lawrence Spagnola said investigators have now reviewed an enhanced copy of the 911 tape and found several inconsistencies, including the fact that the caller gave one phone number to state police but was unable to give the same number to the city police dispatcher.

“We are looking into this right now. It’s a hoax,” Spagnola said.

The girl said she lived at 150 Sparrow St., but no such address exists. Police visited every house on Sparrow Street, as well as several others that might sound similar to a child, but no one reported anything out of the ordinary.

Investigators also checked schools and hospitals, but found no clues as to the whereabouts of the girl or her mother.

Authorities at first could not trace the call — made from a cell phone. They now suspect the caller used a 2-year-old prepaid phone card that was only able to dial 911 and placed the call from Irvington, N.J.

The Paterson Police Department’s entire 22-member detective squad worked on the case, which included exhausting tips that poured in from around the country.

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