A post office has been destroyed and a substantial sum of money stolen after a JCB tractor was used to ram it.
The sleepy Co Down town of Moneyreagh is in shock as communities come to terms with the burglary just metres from a local primary school.
At around 2am on Tuesday morning, up to four thieves used a stolen digger from the Ballystockart Road in Comber to ram into the post office in the Hillmount Drive area.
They made off with a substantial sum of money from the building, according to police. The premises is used as both a post office and convenience shop.
Diggers were commonly used in a spate of robberies in Tyrone in 2009. The machinery enables ATMs to be ripped from the walls they are built into.
However, the Castlereagh business was targeted for the cash safe in the post office. The free standing ATM inside the front shop which had been installed in September last year, was left untouched.
Elderly residents hoping to collect their state pensions were left appalled as they looked on at the rubble.
Refurbishments had taken place at the property just last summer.
The digger caused extensive damage to the roof of the annexe which housed the post office. The ceiling collapsed and the exterior wall disappeared.
The corner shop faces the neighbourhood's Moneyrea Primary School and the local community centre. It has been described as the heart and soul of the rural area, just 15 minutes drive from Belfast. Golfer Rory McIlroy sold his home nearby last month.
Mother-of-two, Emma Manning says she was stunned to find the building in such a state when she arrived pushing a pram in the afternoon.
“This is shocking in such a sleepy town," she said.
“Kids bring their pocket money to spend on sweets after school. Parents come from the community centre to stock up on tea and coffee.
“It's always so busy - it really is a big part of who we are."
The Housing Executive who own the property arrived at the site nine hours after the robbery.
“A contractor working on our behalf is currently clearing debris from the site and we will seek to secure and weatherproof the property as quickly as possible," said a spokesman.
“The site remains the subject of an ongoing PSNI investigation.”
The clearing of the building was slowed down by the nature of the items inside the post office which were private and confidential.