THE ex-lover of a Hong Kong-based Filipina is under arrest for the murder of her American husband who was gunned down in front of her one week after they married. Patrick Burke died last Saturday battling to protect his new bride, Laura Guinoo, while the pair dressed for a wedding celebration in her family's remote and poverty-stricken village. Mrs Burke had lived in Hong Kong for eight years before accepting a marriage proposal from her pen pal in Arlington, Virginia. They found each other through a magazine advertisement, corresponded for two years, but had met only once before their nuptials. They were married at a Hong Kong civil ceremony attended by 20 friends on July 31, then left the next day for the Philippines. They planned to stay with her family in the tiny village of Tininaan, in Leyte, until the new bride received an American passport. The Hong Kong festivities included a farewell party for the bride's sister, Leny Lee, 40, and her husband Anthony Lee, 60. Mr Lee had retired as a lecturer at Hong Kong Polytechnic. The Lees left the day after the wedding for their retirement home in East Anglia, England. ''This is a disaster, the worst nightmare,'' said Mrs Lee. ''You couldn't even dream of a worse tragedy.'' Mr Lee said the murder resulted from conditions in the hamlet, where foreign visitors were rare and could be presumed to be carrying what would be considered a fortune in cash by locals. ''There are no banks for miles, so you couldn't use travellers' cheques,'' he said. ''He [Burke] would have been an obvious target, but he had no idea of what the Philippines is like. I've been very nervous there.'' Mrs Lee insisted robbery was the motive and denied that her sister had another boyfriend. But Philippine national police in Leyte believe it was a crime of passion and have already arrested a man they have identified as Mrs Burke's former lover, and his two ruthless accomplices. Police say lust and revenge drove Gabriel Lumba Alvarez to break into the home of Mrs Burke's parents, Generosa and Florencia Guinoo, at about 7 pm on August 6. Mr Guinoo, 80, is a retired farmer in Tininaan. Alvarez, Jusme Bisnar Dumaan and Mevelson Dologdugal Custun tied up the elderly couple, then barged into the bathroom where the newlyweds were dressing for the wedding celebration. Police say Alvarez pointed a .38 pistol at his former lover's head and demanded to have sex. Patrick Burke apparently lunged for the gun, wrestled it free and pushed the bandit to the ground. ''Two shots went off,'' Mr Guinoo said. ''I think Patrick was tripped over and as he slipped to the floor, the third shot entered the top of his head and exited from his throat. He never had a chance.'' The trio have been charged with murder and stealing US$300 (about HK$2,300), a Seiko gold watch and a belt. If convicted, they face the death penalty. Meanwhile, the body of Burke, proclaimed a hero in the tiny town liberated by US troops 50 years ago, lies in a coffin awaiting burial back home in Arlington, a city of rolling lawns and cemeteries outside Washington D.C. It is there that all of America's war heroes rest. His mother and sister from Pennsylvania are due to arrive in Manila today. Instead of celebrations, villagers in Tininaan and nearby Matangas are still mourning the burly, bespectacled American who won over residents of the area with his gifts, hospitality and the promise of a better life for a local girl. The pair planned a massive church wedding in Matangas last Friday. Mrs Lee said plans began when the two sisters went home last May. Instead, decorations at the Catholic church hover over a casket and the food has been served at a funeral wake. Burke knew only a few days of wedded bliss, but it had long been the dream of the lonely middle-class bachelor. He approached romance in a matter-of-fact manner. Aged 36, he knew it was time to find a bride, an Asian wife. He turned to magazines that specialised in mail-order marriages. He found a perfect partner in 34-year-old Laura. She saw other Filipinas in Hong Kong who found partners through the post and decided to try her luck. ''They wrote all the time,'' said Mrs Lee. ''He would send her five letters a week, sometimes one a day. And he would call every week or two.'' Burke came to Hong Kong last October and stayed with the Lees, who had sponsored Mrs Burke's visa since her arrival in Hong Kong as a domestic helper in 1986. Neither had been married before and both were ready. They instantly connected - and a wedding was arranged. None of his friends attended the wedding, but they planned a ceremony in the US following the ''second wedding'' in the Philippines. Burke's family were not too pleased with his decision to seek an Asian wife, but they had looked forward to welcoming the bride to her new home in America. Instead, they will meet a widow today, half the way around the world in a strange town that considers their son a hero.