A GUNMAN who terrorised prostitutes in a town's red light area was given six life jail sentences yesterday.

Keith Arliss, 37, raped a 24-year-old and indecently assaulted another prostitute, aged 22, in Middlesbrough, before he was arrested by armed police in County Durham.

He had an air pistol modelled on a Heckler and Koch weapon under the driver's seat of his C-registration Vauxhall.

He attacked the prostitutes last May after kerb-crawling in Middlesbrough, Teesside Crown Court heard.

He drove the 22-year-old along a track by the Navigation Inn, near South Bank, where he held the gun to her head.

The girl, a prostitute for eight years, said: "He said he was going to kill me if I did not do what he said.

"But I screamed and struggled and he dropped the gun. I managed to get out of the car. I asked him why he did it and he said, 'because I enjoy it'."

The next day, Arliss picked up another prostitute, threatened her with the gun and raped her in her Middlesbrough home.

Arliss demanded money from both women, but he left empty-handed.

A few days later, the first prostitute was in her boyfriend's car when she saw Arliss driving ahead of them.

They gave chase and although he evaded them, they got his registration number. An armed County Durham police patrol later stopped the car on the Al(M) near the Carrville interchange.

Asked if he had any firearms, he said: "There's a handgun under the driver's seat."

Prosecutor Graham Reeds said that Arliss had five convictions for sex attacks with a knife in South Yorkshire. He started committing sex offences at 16.

David Lamb, defending, said that he committed no offences from 1994 until the breakdown of a steady relationship last May.

Arliss, formerly of Bullion Lane, Chester-le-Street, County Durham, who had been living rough in his car, was convicted at separate trials of rape and indecent assault. He pleaded guilty to attempted robberies and possessing a pistol with intent to rob.

Judge Mrs Justice Rafferty sentencing him to six life jail sentences, she ordered that he should not be considered for parole for at least ten years