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Raiders set fire to bookies with three shop workers inside

THREE women were lucky to escape with their lives after an out-of-control robber set fire to a Dublin bookies.

The sickening event unfolded when two masked men entered a Ladbrokes shop in the Killinarden area of Tallaght.

It is understood that one of the men was armed with a handgun while the other had a can of petrol.

There were three female employees in the bookies at the time and the men demanded cash and threatened to kill the women.

The employees -- who were all behind a protective screen -- did not hand over any cash and one of the irritated gangsters responded to this by dousing the inside of the premises with petrol.

The thug then set fire to the protective screen that the women were behind.

Sources say that the fire "took hold very quickly" and two of the employees were able to escape from the inferno. However one woman -- who was described as being "extremely panicked" -- was unable to escape and had to be rescued by a member of the public.

All three employees -- understood to be living in the Tallaght area -- were later treated at the local hospital for smoke inhalation injuries. The attack took place at around 6.30pm last night.

It is expected that the workers will make a full recovery but they are said to be very shaken by the incident.

Meanwhile, the bookies was completely gutted in the fire that was started by the raiders, who fled the scene after starting the blaze.

Gardai believe that the key to solving the crime lies in the Tallaght area. A major investigation is now underway with detectives analysing CCTV in a bid to catch the culprits.