AS BELIZE police search for computer antivirus pioneer John McAfee, details have emerged about the accused murderer’s bizarre life of dodgy business deals, drug arrests and remote jungle dwellings.
The 67-year-old entrepreneur has been named the prime suspect in the brutal murder of US expatriate Gregory Faull.
Faull was killed at his home in Amergris Caye at the weekend. Police say Faull and McAfee had previously disagreed about McAfee’s behaviour, guns and dogs.
The head of Belize’s anti-gang task force told media McAfee was a prime suspect. No motive has yet been established, but police in Belize, central America, say they are following several leads.
Police said Faull was found by a maid who had arrived to clean his house early Saturday morning. He was lying face-up in a pool of blood with a gunshot wound to his head.
News reports in the US reveal the bizarre and erratic tale of McAfee’s life since he was pushed out of the company of his namesake, which sold for $7.7 billion two years ago.
His McAfee security software was designed to neutralise computer viruses in the 1980s. He let people download it for free, but charged corporate clients a licensing fee.
So how did this former NASA programmer and software engineer end up as a 67-year-old on the run in a Central American jungle?
THE DODGY BUSINESS VENTURES
As the PC boom of the eighties started across the world, McAfee, who was working for Lockheed as a software engineer, saw an opportunity to create cash from fear. Malicious programs started to spread and McAfee obtained an early version of the virus known as “Pakistani Brain” and commissioned the development of a code to control it. It was to be the kick-off to his major success.
Things started to unravel for McAfee with the Great Michelangelo Virus Scare. McAfee, at the time the leading expert on virus control, announced the imminent takedown of five million computers by Michelangelo. The media went into overdrive. Edgy consumers bought up McAfee products to protect themselves, sending sales skyrocketing.
But the grand disaster never happened. And John McAfee was forced out of the company’s management and decided to sell out for $100 million.
With wads of cash in his back pocket and not much to lose, he began a life as a rich adventure seeker – first turning his hand to adrenalin-packed sports, such as quad biking and open-ocean crossings on jet skis. He then set up a multi-million-dollar yoga retreat, where he gave free lessons to students.
McAfee then set up what he hoped would take off as a national sport: aerotrekking. The dangerous sport entailed flying at dangerously low levels across desert contours. With his followers from the yoga retreat, now known as the Sky Gypsies, he set up fake supporter websites to help gain momentum for his sport.
Residents were not impressed and began the campaign to end his aerotrekking dreams. They succeeded.
Entangled in a lawsuit over a flying accident which killed his nephew, the increasingly whacky McAfee fed the press stories about being wiped out by the GFC, sold all his property at bargain prices and headed for the Central American jungle.
What follows from then until now is a little crazy.
ON THE RUN IN BELIZE
McAfee went on to set up an antibiotics company in Belize.
When the company fell through, McAfee ran a bar and a ferry service. Then his compound in the jungle (he also owns a property in Orange Walk) was raided.
On April 30, McAfee emerged with a 17-year-old girl to find 42 police and soldiers ready to turn his jungle dwelling inside out.
McAfee’s dwelling was connected to the Mexican border by a long, winding river. He’d hired a former cop as a security chief and kept the compound guarded.
The police found a cache of weapons, $20,000 in cash and some legal drug-making equipment, shot a dog, handcuffed four security guard and arrested McAfee – but they found nothing to pin on him.
They had apparently been looking for a meth lab.
Afterwards, McAfee wrote a fragmented rant for Gizmodo. He told readers he was hiding out while his lawyers helped him negotiate with the government and said: “the only person you can trust is yourself”.
“I am in a one room house in an uninteresting location. I have not been outdoors for 5 days. I have no cable or satellite TV and I have three DVDs – The Human Stain, Tierra and Naked. I have no books. I do have an iPad but no charger. They are difficult to get in this country. I have 21 per cent charge remaining – I have been rationing.”
McAfee had meanwhile told a Gizmodo journalist of about 12 suspected attempts on his life. A paranoia perhaps fuelled by reports of his erratic drug taking.
Over the past two years McAfee has allegedly posted prolifically to message boards about his drug use – particularly with “bath salts”.
Using the name “stuffmonger” he apparently wrote about attempts to purify the main psychoactive substance in bath salts, declaring “I’m a huge fan of MPDV”.
He admitted the drug gave him intense highs but contributed to his paranoia.
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