SICKENING details about the dysfunctional family life that tragic Baby Peter was trapped in beggars belief. ELIZABETH PEARS tells the full story of the horrors that emerged over the course of two trials and of the string of lies that fooled doctors, social workers, health visitors and even the police.

No one who listened to the months of abuse and the apparent lack of remorse could have failed to be shaken to the core. For weeks, members of the press were able to stare into the faces of those responsible but, shackled by court orders, were powerless to fully expose them - until now.

Now, the faces of Tracey Connelly, 27 and Stephen Barker, 33, have been revealed alongside that of Barker's elder brother, Jason Owen, 37. Baby Peter had been the son that Connelly had always longed for. In mobile phone clips of Connelly, Barker and a laughing baby Peter playing in Chestnuts Park, in Tottenham, onlookers would have seen nothing but a contented couple enjoying the sunshine. On Peter's first birthday, he is shown playfully tumbling into the arms of Barker, who appeared like any other devoted dad.

But taking into account the abuse Baby P suffered, it is clear this was not the case.

Sadistic Barker , who grew up on Tottenham's Ferry Lane estate, was believed to be responsible for inflicting escalating levels of violence against the cherubic toddler. Connelly, meanwhile, who felt lucky to be with him, turned the other way. Barker's own brother, who moved into the house six weeks before Peter's death on August 3, 2007, also failed to stop the maltreatment, despite claiming in court he had been concerned.

Barker used Peter as a punchbag, it was claimed, and the list of torture he was subjected to included being spun round on a chair until he fell off and being punched and thrown around like a doll. Bite marks on the 17-month-old's head were thought to be inflicted by Barker's rotweillers at his command.

Social workers who visited the house admitted they were unaware of his presence and of the huge role he played in the lives of Connelly's four children, bathing them, preparing their meals and looking after them while Connelly sat on the computer playing on the internet into the early hours, and then spending the rest of the day in bed.

Connelly herself had been raised by a mother who battled alcohol and drug addiction and had spent much of her childhood living in squalor with no routine and often having to fend for herself. She was sent to a boarding school for children with emotional problems and she had been frequently involved with social services. A serious case review, led by Graham Badman, chair of the local children's safeguarding board, attacked social workers for being "too willing" to believe Tracey's stories and failing to take into account her own complicated background.

Mr Badman said: "I believe the most important lesson arising from this case is that professionals charged with ensuring child safety must be deeply sceptical of any explanations, justifications or excuses they may hear in connection with the apparent maltreatment of children."

Had they been more cynical, Mr Badman said, Baby Peter's death could have been prevented.

This was a woman who lulled professionals into feeling sorry for her, claiming to be a good mother who was simply struggling to cope. Social workers appeared to bend over backwards to assist her. She was offered parenting classes and was even in the process of applying to have a holiday with her children funded by Haringey Council.

It is said that Baby Peter was ignored by social services and other professionals. In fact, the opposite is true, as the number of contacts, up to 60, will testify. This makes it more disturbing that those who should have been able to spot warning signs were so taken in by a woman who, by her own admission, was uneducated, and failed to spot the true danger Peter was in.

Click here to read more about Tracey Connelly's background