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Newtownards pensioner who put fire out after arson attack 'lucky to be alive'

By Charlotte Martin and Allan Preston

A Northern Ireland pensioner who was targeted in an arson attack yesterday morning is "lucky to be alive" after putting out the fire herself.

The woman, believed to be in her 60s, was alone in her bungalow on the Glenard Road,  Newtownards, when the attack took place.

Police reported that flammable liquid was poured through the woman's letter box, and her door set ablaze at around 1.25am.

The occupant was able to extinguish the flames herself, before calling for help, but remains shaken following the incident.

Two men, aged 38 and 40, were arrested in connection with the incident and were kept in police custody.

Forensics officers spent hours investigating at the house yesterday.

There was considerable scorch damage to the door of the bungalow, which is located across the road from a children's play group.

Next-door neighbour, Nancy Orr (73), said she was shocked by the attack.

"She is a very respectable lady who keeps herself to herself," she said.

"She bothers nobody and I can't understand why this happened. I've no idea why people did this, unless the drink was in and the wit was out."

She added: "Her son comes every day to check how she is but I'm sure he's devastated. Last Tuesday night at one in the morning, a car was set alight outside as well. I think there's so much badness around today, that's what's wrong."

Another local woman, Isobel Palmer (58), commented: "It would scare the life out of you, especially if she's on her own. I know her and her son, it's awful. You had the car burnt out here last week, but normally you don't get this. I used to work in the shop on the street and she would be in and out, a very nice lady."

One man who lives on the Glenard Road was also shocked by the incident.

"You wouldn't expect something like this to happen in the area. No matter what the age of the people doing this, this shouldn't be happening to an elderly woman," he said.

Alliance MLA for Strangford, Kellie Armstrong, said: "It is extremely lucky nobody was killed in this arson attack. I question the mind-set of those behind this incident - what would possess them to start such a dangerous fire and put lives at risk?"

She added: "We must ensure those behind this despicable incident are brought to justice. If anybody has any information about this attack, then I urge them to contact the police."

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