Software Pioneer John McAfee in Hiding over Belize Murder: ‘They Will Kill Me if They Find Me’

The one-time wizard of anti-virus software now finds himself the prime suspect in a bizarre murder in the country to which he retired to get away from the chaos.

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Image: McAfee
Karen Bleier / AFP/ Getty

A Facebook page showing photos of John McAfee. McAfee, founder of the eponymous anti-virus company, is on the run for killing another US citizen in a resort town, Belize police said.

John McAfee, who helped invent the computer security industry with his namesake anti-virus software, now has a different kind of security to worry about. He’s on the run in the Central American jungle, convinced that people are trying to kill him and wanted for questioning in an ongoing murder investigation.

Police in Belize, where the 67-year-old multimillionaire retired in 2008, say a housekeeper found the body of McAfee’s neighbor, 54-year-old American expatriate Gregory Faull,  with a fatal gunshot wound to the back of his head. Faull was discovered on an upper floor of his home; there were no signs of forced entry. An iPhone and a laptop computer were missing, and police found a single Luger 9mm shell at the scene.

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McAfee has fled from Belize authorities, apparently under the impression that he will be killed if taken into custody. In an interview he gave to Wired magazine from his hideout, McAfee said when he knew that he was being sought, he buried himself in the sand with a carboard box over his head. “It was extraordinarily uncomfortable,” he told Wired. “But they will kill me if they find me.”

Raphael Martinez, spokesman for the Belize Police Department says although McAfee remains a person of interest in the case, two others are being held in connection with the murder. “We do have two persons detained for questioning,” he told local radio station LoveFMWednesday, affirming that he believes McAfee is still in Belize “Maybe you need to get someone to go along with you but come in and let’s answer some questions and let’s solve this crime or answer some questions so you can free yourself.”

McAfee’s latest troubles may stem from a long-running dispute between him and Faull. The former computer mogul kept several dogs on his compound, which Faull and other neighbors have complained about to the mayor of San Pedro, a small town on the resort island of Ambergris Caye not far from where they all lived. McAfee claims that his dogs were poisoned last week — although he believes they were killed by Belize authorities, which have suspected him for months of making methamphetamine and keeping illegal weapons, Wired reported.

Earlier this year, officers from Belize’s Gang Suppression Unit raided a compound McAfee owns in jungles near the Mexico border, suspecting him of gang involvement and methamphetamine manufacturing. The charges didn’t stick — while the raid uncovered a chemistry lab and a small arsenal of firearms, it found no evidence of illegal activity, and McAfee was freed 14 hours later. But the former computer mogul thinks the government poisoned the dogs as a hint to him to leave the country and that his neighbor’s death was actually an attempt to assassinate him. “I thought maybe they were coming for me. They mistook him for me. They got the wrong house,” McAfee told Wired‘s Joshua Davis. “He’s dead. They killed him. It spooked me out.”

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Gang Supression Unit officials say they have no quarrel with McAfee and they are not targeting him. “This guy amazes me every day. We don’t have anything personal against Mr. McAfee,” GSU chief Marco Vidal told Wired. There is no need for us to poison dogs.” But he remains the main person of interest in the death of Faull. No arrests have been made yet.

McAfee founded his anti-virus software company in 1987 after years of working as a programmer and software developer.  NASA and Lockheed are among the many companies decorating his resume. After taking his company through several incarnations and finally into a public offering, he cashed out to the tune of $100 million and later purchased property in Belize and moved there. He has said his fortune dwindled to $4 million due to the U.S. financial crisis.

But in a series of posts on the tech blog Gizmodo, McAfee has admitted that he has involved himself with gangsters on the island. He’d also reportedly become linked to illicit activities, in addition to displaying generally erratic and paranoid behavior — including keeping the dogs that scared Faull enough for the neighbor to complain to the mayor of San Pedro, Daniel Guerrero.

“Both of them were my friends. It’s hard. It’s something that has shocked the community,” Guerrero told the Associated Press.