Women in the public gallery, all either victims of rapes for which he has been convicted or of attacks he is alleged to have committed, cheered when Mr Justice Potts passed sentence at Newcastle upon Tyne Crown Court on Kevin Lakeman.
Several broke down and wept; one was only 13 when she was attacked.
Lakeman, 33, burly and wearing a rugby shirt, showed no emotion as the judge told him he posed a serious risk to women and would be put away for an indefinite period.
The terms of the sentence mean he will not be considered for release until he has served at least 12 years. If he stayed in jail then, his case would not be reconsidered for another six years. The judge said: "That does not mean you will be released from custody at 12 or 18 years. You will remain in custody so long as it is necessary for the protection of the public."
Lakeman, an unemployed father of five children, formerly of Ribble Road, Sunderland, was found guilty at Leeds Crown Court last month of two rapes and one attempted rape in the space of 24 hours on New Year's Day, 1982, in the Downhill area of Sunderland.
He had already admitted one charge of raping an 18-year-old girl in a city centre car park at Sunderland in the early hours of New Year's Day 1994. A further eight rape charges and four of attempted rape, all involving attacks in Sunderland between 1982 and 1994, were left on file.
Lakeman was initially charged with a total of 30 serious sex offences.
The judge said: "I am satisfied, having regard to the circumstances of all these cases, and having regard to the contents of the report made on you by two psychiatrists. . . that you pose a serious risk to women and are likely to do so for an indefinite period.
"I am satisfied it is necessary, for the protection of the public, that you be sentenced to an indeterminate period of imprisonment. That is life imprisonment."
Outside the court, Detective Superintendent Dave Wilson of Northumbria Police said: "This is certainly a sentence we have been working towards for a number of years. He is a very dangerous man, a very cool, calm calculated and determined liar." Referring to the women in the public gallery, Det Supt Wilson added: "This has been a very emotional day for them. Certainly they all feel relief that Lakeman has been given a sentence he deserves."
During Lakeman's trial at Leeds, the court was told that he was trapped by a new technique to test DNA which only became available last August.
A DNA pattern from a sample of Lakeman's blood, which had been "grown" by forensic scientists, was compared with semen from a 16-year-old girl, one of the victims on New Year's Day, 1982.
He had denied raping the girl in the grounds of Hilton Castle. He also denied raping a 20-year-old woman on a playing field and attempting to rape an 18-year-old woman. He admitted frogmarching an 18-year-old mother to a car park at knifepoint on New Year's Day 1994 where he raped her.
The jury heard that Lakeman, high on amphetamine sulphate or "speed", confessed to a friend in a nightclub that he had raped a woman.
It was explained during the trial how he used to put fear into the minds of his victims. He told one that he had escaped from a "nuthouse", another that he had escaped from a prison in London and a third that he would "slice her up" if she reported him.Reuse content