Prime minister of Belize urges the multi-millionaire to “man up” and turn himself in
Security software pioneer John McAfee continues to evade police in Belize, despite the calls by the prime minister for his assiatance in a murder investigation, and assurances that he will be kept safe if he turns himself in.
The multi-millionaire is wanted for questioning over the death of his neighbour and fellow American expatriate Gregory Faull, who was shot in San Pedro Town on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize on Saturday.
McAfee has denied killing Faull and told the media that he believed he was the original assassination target. He also said that he wouldn’t contact the authorities for fear that Belize’s Gang Suppression Unit (BGS), which has raided his home in the past, would torture him into confession and kill him.
Currently, no official charges have been filed in the case. McAfee is believed to be hiding in the Belize jungle.
As a young and talented programmer, McAfeee had worked for high-profile companies such as NASA, Xerox, Lockheed and CSC. He started his own business in 1987, and left it in 1994, after making an estimated $100 million fortune on anti-virus software.
The company founded by McAfee is now owned by Intel, and remains the second largest security software vendor in the world.
After leaving the IT industry, McAfee’s behaviour has become increasingly erratic. About three years ago, he moved to Belize in South America and started QuorumEx, a research company dedicated to studying bacterial quorum sensing – a method of communication through pheromones. However, McAfee’s online interactions suggest that the company was used as a front for pharmaceutical experiments.
He had admitted using drugs and was even suspected of crystal methamphetamine manufacturing. Over time, McAfee alienated his neighbours and took up a number of unusual hobbies, including ‘aerotrekking’ – a thrill-seeking activity which involved flying aircraft low over remote stretches of desert.
It was reported that he assembled an extensive collection of guns, and claimed to have connections with a number of well-known gang members in Belize.
The ex-programmer has gone into hiding after the murder, but he remains in constant contact with Wired’s contributing editor Joshua Davis and other journalists.
According to Davis, when the police came to question McAfee, he avoided detection by changing his appearance and hiding in the sand with a cardboard box over his head.
McAfee later told Associated Press that he was unarmed, accompanied by a young woman, and would keep changing his location and phones frequently to evade the authorities. He also said he was using disguises that made him “look like a murderer, unfortunately”.
Whatever it takes
“I don’t want to be unkind to the gentleman, but I believe he is extremely paranoid, even bonkers,” Belize prime minister Dean Barrow said on national television on Wednesday.
“Come forward man,” he urged McAfee. “It is now hugely public and you surely do not expect anyone to believe that the police want to kill you, so that if you come in for questioning you are going to be murdered.
“That is utter and complete nonsense. The spotlight is very much on this issue. Come in and have the police do their job and if it is that you are truly innocent, you are free to go,” Barrow added.
McAfee has told the media that he is afraid of GSU, a police department that raided his home in April: “The GSU will do what the GSU does, beat me soundly until I confess to a multitude of sins, including I guess the murder of Jimmy Hoffa, and then just execute me.” (Jimmy Hoffa was a US trade union leader who disappeared in 1975, and has been declared legally dead).
Faull, the owner of a construction business in the US, was found dead from a gunshot to the head on Sunday. He and several other neighbours had previously filed a complaint against McAfee, saying that he kept a large number of dogs that were running loose and attacking people, and his armed guards were intimidating local residents.
McAfee later claimed that four of his dogs were poisoned, but he suspected it was “some kind of government action”.
“I barely knew him, I barely spoke ten words to him in the last three years,” McAfee said, describing his relationship with Faull. “Certainly he was not my favourite person and I was not his.”
The millionaire believes that Faull’s murder was a mistake, and the killers were actually after him. “You can say I’m paranoid about it but they will kill me, there is no question. They’ve been trying to get me for months. They want to silence me.
“I am adept at hiding. I will do whatever it takes to stay alive,” he told Davis.
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