John McAfee is seen speaking in San Pedro, Belize, last
week. McAfee says he has gone into hiding in Belize because
he believes authorities there are trying to frame him for
the murder of neighbour Gregory Faull, a crime he says he
did not commit, according to Wired magazine. REUTERS/San
To the many people who crossed his path on a tropical
island in Belize, it was apparent John McAfee's life had taken
some bizarre turns in the past few years.
The anti-virus software guru, who started McAfee Associates
in 1989, has been in hiding since police said they wanted to
question him about the weekend murder of his neighbour,
fellow American Gregory Faull, with whom McAfee had
Despite his disappearance, McAfee, 67, has remained in
contact with the media, providing a stream of colourful
bulletins over his predicament, state of mind and his claim
that Belize's authorities want to kill him.
Residents of the Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye and
others who know him paint the picture of an eccentric,
impulsive man who gave up a career as a successful
entrepreneur in the United States for a life of
semi-seclusion in the former pirate haven of Belize,
surrounded by bodyguards and young women.
McAfee, a yoga fan who has lived on the island for about four
years, often moves around with bodyguards and sticks pistols
in his belt.
"Never mind the dog, beware of owner," counsels a small sign,
embellished with a sketched hand gripping a large pistol,
tacked to the fence separating McAfee's beachfront swimming
pool from the pier that cuts into the azure sea.
Officials suspect he used designer drugs, and neighbours say
McAfee tried to chase them off the public beach in front of
his house. Inside his home, a blue-roofed cottage complex, he
kept a small arsenal of shotguns and scope-fitted rifles.
There were also complaints about the millionaire's numerous
and noisy dogs. Officials say the poisoning of four of the
dogs may be linked to the murder of Faull, a 52-year-old
Florida building contractor who was shot dead at his
salmon-hued two-story villa about 100m down the beach from
Faull was one of the locals who had complained about McAfee's
attitude and his dogs.
Now on the run, McAfee told Wired magazine, with whom he has
kept a running conversation, that he was disguised and holed
up in what he describes as a lice-infested refuge.
In comments to the magazine, McAfee denied he shot Faull and
said he fears that the police will kill or torture him.
Police, who believe he is still in Belize, say they just want
to talk to him about the killing.
McAfee, who has not responded to requests for comment by
Reuters, blamed Belize's "pirate culture" for his troubles in
an essay Wired said he had sent to the magazine.
"Belize is still a pirate haven and is run more or less along
the lines established centuries ago by the likes of Captain
Morgan, Blackbeard and Captain Barrow," McAfee said.
Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow has urged McAfee to help
police with their inquiries, calling him "bonkers."
Many locals in San Pedro describe the tattooed McAfee, who
made a fortune developing the Internet anti-virus software
that bears his name, as a generous but unstable man.
"He's a good guy, he helped a lot of people. The problem was
when he wanted something he wanted it right now. And when he
didn't get it, he'd get paranoid," said one islander, a
former McAfee employee, who like many people here spoke on
condition their name not be used for fear of retribution.
"He's a complex man, very impulsive," the islander added.
Doug Singh, Belize's former police minister, told Reuters he
was at a loss to explain McAfee's recent comments.
"Mr McAfee seems to have a bit of a divorce from reality and
it seems to be consistent in his behaviour and some of the
things he has said recently. He's way out of line and out of
proportion," Sing said. "Nobody has anything against Mr.
After making millions with his anti-virus product, McAfee
decided to abandon the United States for Belize, a languid
coastal paradise. It is a path that has been taken by a
number of rich Americans over the years.
He took a beachfront compound on the island's isolated and
exclusive north side, 10km from the town of San Pedro by boat
or by driving over badly cratered asphalt and dirt track. It
is a world away from California's Silicon Valley, which he
once called home.
He took the company public in 1992 and left two years later
following accusations that he had hyped the arrival of a
virus known as Michelangelo, which turned out to be a dud, to
scare computer users into buying his company's products.
Officials at the company he created and its parent, Intel,
have declined to comment on the controversy.
But one long-time McAfee manager who recently left said
company executives were likely monitoring the news closely.
He said they have tracked reports of John McAfee's activities
over the years out of concern they might need to do damage
A case is already pending in Belize against McAfee for
possession of illegal firearms, and police previously
suspected him of running a lab to make illicit synthetic
But McAfee said this week he was opposed to drugs.
"My life is f**ked up enough without drugs, and always has
been," McAfee told Wired magazine.
For all his trouble with authorities, McAfee has worked hard
to be the island's benefactor. Upon arriving in Belize he
bought a $1 million boat for the country's new coast guard,
and donated equipment to the local police force, according to
He tipped generously everywhere he went, and hired a steady
stream of taxis for frequent female guests on the $150 round
trip from the small airstrip in San Pedro out to his house.
"Not two or three, a lot of women," said Artemio Awayo, 24, a
local waiter. "Every time I saw him it was a different
Those who knew him said he didn't drink and never hung out at
the island's many bars. But employees at a restaurant near
the pier where McAfee's water taxi company is based said his
actions grew more bizarre following a police raid last April
on his mainland hacienda outside the town of Orange Walk.
Even for casual lunches, McAfee began regularly coming to
town with at least two bodyguards, clad in camouflage and
each packing pistols, they said.
"Generally, you don't need a bodyguard in Belize," said Jorge
Alana, a San Pedro Sun reporter who interviewed McAfee
several times, noting top elected officials don't have them.
"It does call attention when you move with so many guards."
McAfee's home is in a stretch of Ambergris where the
wealthiest foreigners hole up. Small lots of land can cost up
to $500,000 here. Even modest-looking houses reflect
Yesterday afternoon, a 23-year-old calling herself Tiffany
used a key to enter McAfee's home with another young woman
and said he had spent Saturday night with them - around the
time police said Faull's murder took place.
They had not spoken to McAfee since Sunday, she said .
Today, an outside light was still on at his beachfront
complex, and a dog roamed freely around the grounds.
Like McAfee, many of his north shore neighbours tend to
favour being left alone, rarely coming to town and loath to
mix with tourists.
"That's why they come to San Pedro," said Daniel Guerrero,
the tour guide and real estate broker now serving as the
town's mayor. "They like the quietness. They like the
But even fishing, scuba diving and sunset daiquiris can get
tiresome. Accustomed to hard work and achievement, newcomers
established and kept up the island's charities, locals say.
Quite a few foreigners, like McAfee, started local
businesses. And some fall out of synch with local culture.
"It's one thing to vacation here and another thing living
here," said Wyoming native Tamara Sniffin, owner and editor
of the San Pedro Sun, the local newspaper.
Immortalised in song by Madonna as La Isla Bonita, Ambergris
Caye stretches 43km along the blue Caribbean below the
Mexican border, flanking the world's second-largest barrier
reef and some of its finest sport fishing waters.
Those attributes have attracted well-heeled foreign retirees
and celebrities such as actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who owns a
small island nearby.
"Here it's just party, party, work, party," said Iris Mavel,
27, a waitress at a restaurant favoured by McAfee. "A lot of
couples who come here leave divorced. That's why they call it
The island also has a darker side. Dumped at sea and carried
ashore by the tides, bundles of Colombian cocaine flow
through the island not far from McAfee's house and on, many
say, toward the Mexican border. Cocaine not recovered by the
smugglers is collected by islanders, supplying a thriving
local drug market that has sparked low-level gang feuds and
Some townsfolk suspect McAfee is hiding on a yacht off of San
Pedro. Others note that Mexico is only an hour away by the
sort of fast boat McAfee owns and that passports are never
checked for people landing in the oceanfront villages there.
San Pedro's mayor believes he will surface.
"I have the feeling that this guy will turn up," Guerrero
said. "But he'll turn up with his attorneys. He's a big guy."