A surrogate mother who won the legal right to keep her baby has told how she could not bear to hand over the child because she feared the couple she was having the baby for would not make good parents.
The woman had initially agreed to give the baby to a wealthy man and his wife, believing they were the 'perfect couple' to raise a child.
As part of the deal she was paid £4,500 (€5,355) in expenses.
But she began to change her mind following a series of disturbing admissions by the wife.
The surrogate, who can only be named as Miss N to protect the identity of the baby, said the woman told her that her husband was controlling and violent towards her, and had once tried to strangle her with a car seat-belt.
Miss N said: "I wanted to help this couple to have a child, and I thought it would be a wonderful thing to be able to do. But as I got to know them I found they had told me lie after lie, which made me doubt what I was doing."
She claimed that the woman, identified as Mrs W, had previously tried to use a prostitute as her surrogate and had told her she would abort any child with Down's syndrome, describing them as 'animals'.
Miss N went on to claim that Mrs W had 'snapped' during a foul-mouthed row with an older teenage child, and that she had seen the woman bang the teenager's head against an oven.
By that stage the surrogate, who is in her mid-twenties, was pregnant and refused to hand over the baby girl after her birth, leading to a six-month court battle as the couple attempted to force her to give them the child.
In a ruling that could have far-reaching consequences for other couples considering using a surrogate, a senior Family Court judge ruled that despite her earlier promise the surrogate should be allowed to keep her daughter.
In this case no formal contract had been agreed between Miss N and the couple.
Mr W, a chef in his mid-forties, already had a teenage daughter from a previous relationship, and Mrs W, a housewife in her late thirties, had three teenage children from a previous marriage, but they could not have children together because she had undergone cancer treatment.
Miss N, an inner-city single mother raising her own two children on benefits, saw the appeal by the couple on a surrogacy forum in July 2009 and emailed Mr W, saying: 'I am truly interested in helping you to make your family complete.'
Within a month the prospective parents had arranged the deal themselves, without the use of a specialist surrogacy agency.
The child was conceived using a crude technique to inseminate Miss N with Mr W's sperm, meaning they were both the baby's biological parents. But she began to have doubts within weeks of conceiving.
She told The Daily Mail: "I didn't mean to hurt anyone, and I'm sorry it has ended this way, but I couldn't give them my baby.
"I had to do what was best for her. Now I think that she [Mrs W] only really wanted my baby as a toy. She needed something to occupy herself as she didn't work and her husband was never there.
"I'm also not convinced he truly wanted the baby. I thought he just wanted to keep his wife happy, like it was something he could buy for her."
She added: "My kids are my world, and if I could give that to someone else, someone who couldn't have children on their own, then that was something I really wanted to do.
"When I met this couple they seemed perfect. They needed me, and I wanted to help them.
"They had a beautiful house in the countryside, he had a good job and she didn't work, so I knew she would have time to look after the baby. And they said they would pay for their child to go through private school.
"Maybe I was gullible, but I believed everything they told me about themselves. Now I don't know if any of it was true."
The surrogate claimed Mrs W begged her to go through with the surrogacy arrangement and when that failed began to make threats.
She said Mrs W threatened to report her to social services and have her other children taken into care.
The distraught wife even turned up at the hospital the day before the surrogate was due to give birth, to make a final plea for her to give up the child.
At the same time Mr W demanded the return of the £4,500 (€5,355) expenses.
Miss N still refused to hand over the child, who was born last July. She said the couple sent her an abrupt text message, saying: 'Fine. We will see you in court.'
Miss N told the court said she had pulled out of the deal because of what she had discovered about the couple and because she had formed a powerful bond with her baby.
Mr and Mrs W strongly denied her claims that they were in a violent relationship, and have accused Miss N of deliberately deceiving them and forging incriminating emails to use against them.
But Mr Justice Scott Baker last month ruled Miss N had the legal right to keep the girl, now six months old.
He criticised all three adults in the case, but judged it was in the baby's best interests to remain with her mother. In a warning to other prospective parents considering surrogacy, he said they faced 'very considerable' risks.
"In particular, the natural process of carrying and giving birth to a baby creates an attachment which may be so strong that the surrogate mother finds herself unable to give up the child,' he said.
A review hearing is scheduled to take place later this month to decide on the level of contact between the baby and her biological father.
The judge said the couple were 'understandably bitter' about Miss N's change of heart over her baby, identified in court as T, but added: "I have reached the clear conclusion that T's welfare requires her to remain with her mother.
"There is a clear attachment between mother and daughter. To remove her from her mother's care would cause a measure of harm."
Miss N said she hopes her daughter will still be able to have a relationship with Mr W.
She said: "I don't hate them now, I just pity them. I believe Mrs W truly wants a baby and I'm sorry it has worked out like this, but I can't give her mine. I would never consider being a surrogate now, especially not for strangers.
"To give a couple a child to raise you have to know them inside out. I have learned that lesson now."