The increasingly bizarre tale of John McAfeeComment on this story
Washington - Prostitutes, gun-toting bodyguards, experimental drugs, police raids, poisoned dogs, murder, elaborate disguises, cloak-and-dagger interviews: welcome to the incredible world of John McAfee.
In a plotline worthy of a Hollywood thriller, the American anti-virus software pioneer went on the run from his Belize island home hours after his Florida expat neighbor Gregory Faull was murdered early on November 11.
With 20-year-old girlfriend Sam in tow, McAfee has evaded capture for more than three weeks. He claimed on Monday that the fugitive pair have secured safe passage out of the country, although no one has a clue where they are.
McAfee's ramblings are laid bare for the public at whoismcafee.com, the blog he set up to counter the lies he says the media and the Belize government have perpetuated in the wake of his disappearance.
On Saturday, a posting cited an unconfirmed report that the 67-year-old McAfee had been captured at the border of Belize and Mexico. But, as anyone accustomed with the blog would know, nothing should be taken at face value.
On Monday morning, McAfee posted an update apologising for the misdirection, saying he had conjured it up to mislead the Belizean authorities, who have declared him a “person of interest” in the case.
“I am currently safe and in the company of two intrepid journalist(s) from Vice Magazine, and, of course, Sam. We are not in Belize, but not quite out of the woods yet,” his post said.
“My 'double', carrying on a North Korean passport under my name, was in fact detained in Mexico for pre-planned misbehaviour, but due to indifference on the part of authorities was evicted from the jail and was unable to serve his intended purpose in our exit plan,” it added.
In the McAfee story, the truth is an enigma. Did he actually commit the crime? If he did, why leave such an elaborate e-trail? If he didn't, why go on the run at all?
McAfee was involved in a spat with the deceased but maintains his innocence and says he fears for his life if he gives himself up because the Belize authorities are corrupt and have it in for him.
Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow has described McAfee as “bonkers,” saying he is only wanted for questioning, and urged him to give himself up.
Police found no sign of the tech guru when they raided his property on the island of Ambergris Caye - a ring of white sandy beaches around a mangrove swamp off the northeastern Belizean coast - on the evening of the murder.
McAfee said he didn't immediately leave his home and was hiding neck-deep in the sand with his head obscured by a cardboard box.
He later claimed to have donned a serious of elaborate disguises to keep an eye on the police investigation, including masquerading as a drunken German tourist complete with a Speedo and flamboyant Hawaiian shirt.
McAfee has given interviews from hiding. Many were straight out of a John Le Carre novel, involving elaborate meetings with middlemen, telephone calls with different numbers and rendezvous at safe houses with secret passwords.
In an interview with CNN on Friday, McAfee appeared red-eyed and scraggy, and said he was so fearful he carries up to a dozen disposable cellphones at a time.
“I'm going to fight until something changes,” the fugitive said, declining to indicate how long he would remain in hiding but insisting he would get Sam somewhere safe before returning to Belize to clear his name.
A successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur who cashed out to live the life of an adventure seeker, McAfee amassed huge wealth from the antivirus software that bears his name.
He decamped to Belize in 2009 after losing an estimated $96 million of his $100 million fortune due to bad investments and the financial crisis.
According to profiles in The New York Times and tech magazine Wired, his lifestyle became increasingly extreme as he descended into a drug-fuelled existence centered on young prostitutes.
Jeff Wise, a science and adventure writer who has known McAfee for years, told Fox News that his increasingly odd behaviour earlier this year had seen him become estranged from the US expatriate community in Belize.
“Around the time his herbal drug plan collapsed, he started to get really heavily into this kind of synthetic, hallucinogenic hyper-aphrodisiac,” he said. “Everyone was scared of McAfee. He was walking around the beach carrying a gun.”
Police raided McAfee's home in April and he was briefly incarcerated after police found him living with a 17-year-old girl and discovered an arsenal of seven pump-action shotguns, one single-action shotgun, and two 9-mm pistols.
Police say Faull, 52, was discovered by his housekeeper with a 9-mm slug in his head lying in a pool of his own blood.
Prior to his murder, Faull had led neighbours in writing a letter to the mayor complaining that McAfee's “vicious” dogs and aggressive security guards were scaring tourists and residents alike.
McAfee shot dead four of his dogs before fleeing, claiming they had been poisoned, possibly by Faull.
Police said the dogs were exhumed last week and ballistics experts are seeing if the slugs match up with the one found in Faull's head. - Sapa-AFP