A woman in her 50s has escaped injury after masked men tied her up, robbed her and started a fire during a break-in.
The incident took place on School Road outside the village of Clough in Co Down on Monday.
Police said that at around 1pm two masked men entered a house in the area and tied up a woman, who is understood to have been a cleaner at the property.
They then made off with an iPad, a Mac Book and a grey Peugeot 206 car.
The intruders also started a fire in an upstairs room. Two members of the public who were passing at the time came to the aid of the woman and helped her to safety.
The woman was not injured but left shocked by her ordeal.
Police and fire crews attended the scene and the fire was extinguished, but significant damage was caused to the property.
The Peugeot car was discovered burnt out at the Old Mill on the Clarkill Road, Castlewellan shortly after midnight in the early hours of this morning.
The owner of the house, Matthew Davy, a local businessman, was not at home when the attack took place.
The woman was “lucky to be alive”, he told BBC News NI.
“She was held against her will for at least two hours, and at the finale of it they tied her up using wires of some kind,” Mr Davy said.
“As far as I know, they left her in one room and a fire was started in another room and they left her there.
“I don’t understand what the thinking behind that was, or why somebody would want to do that.”
Condemning those responsible for the incident, South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells told the News Letter that the incident had struck fear into the local community.
He added: “This woman could have been burned alive.
“Fortunately, two people happened to be walking past the house, alerted the authorities and the lady was rescued.
“Given the rural location of this house, the chances of two people walking past at the right time are very slim.
“The woman is very lucky as it is quite possible that these two passers by have saved her life.
“Had that not happened we could well have been dealing with something much more serious.”
Detective Sergeant Johnston is appealing to anyone who witnessed any suspicious vehicles or persons in the area of School Road on Monday or anyone who saw the Peugeot car being driven between Clough and Castlewellan to contact detectives on 101.