A convicted bigamist who narrowly avoided a prison sentence last night vowed: "I'll never marry again."

Robert Hutchings, 53, said after being given a 15-month suspended prison sentence: ''I will not be getting married again. No chance.''

The father-of-six, who in October was found guilty of two counts of bigamy by a jury at Teesside Crown Court, returned to court to be sentenced yesterday.

Former Irish Guardsman Hutchings was convicted of twice getting married in Newcastle, although he never divorced his first wife, Violet Mason, whom he left in Belfast in 1978.

The jury had been told that unemployed Hutchings went on to marry 31-year-old civil servant Jean Thompson in 1988.

When that relationship ended in "divorce" because of his alleged adultery, he married 18-year-old Samantha Bone, who was living in a Newcastle hostel he was managing in 1995.

Hutchings, of Clavering Road, Hartlepool, Teesside, said during his trial that he had fled from Northern Ireland to start a new life because he was on an IRA hit-list.

He had told the jury: "I left Belfast because people were threatening me and the house was petrol-bombed and bullets had come through my windows because I was ex-Army and Protestant.

"I was on a death list from the Provisional IRA and another organisation."

The court heard at yesterday's hearing that Hutchings had spun a growing web of lies about his former military exploits.

He had made outrageous claims to Ms Bone, saying he had served with the SAS, joined the Foreign Legion, been a mercenary in Angola, and had fought in the Vietnam War.

Robin Denny, mitigating, said Hutchings had a substantial, on-going relationship with his five children and 18 grand-children in Northern Ireland.

His client was a "pathetic individual" who was desperate to maintain his close relationship with his daughter, Shannon.

He was also suffering from arthritis and was due to have a prostate operation on Tuesday, the lawyer said.

Judge Tony Briggs told Hutchings he was guilty of "unforgivable deceit".

But he had maintained an unusual relationship with all three women, the judge said, adding: "There was ample opportunity for them to make life extremely unpleasant for you if they so wished."

Hutchings was incapable of telling the truth and had committed crimes for which he should be punished by a prison sentence.

But taking into account his relationship with his children and his health, he sentenced him to a total of 15 months in jail, the sentence suspended for two years