John McAfee: The Rise and Fall of a Computer Genius
By Umberto Bacchi | November 14, 2012 5:23 AM EST
Antivirus pioneer John McAfee, founder of the eponymous software company, is on the run in Belize where local police believes he is the "prime suspect" for the murder of his neighbour, American citizen Gregory Viant Faull, 52.
Faull, who had recently lodged a formal complaint against McAfee alleging he had fired off guns and exhibited "roguish behaviour," was found by police "lying face up in a pool of blood" in his home in San Pedro Town on the island of Ambergris Caye.
When Faull's body was discovered, police went the McAfee's house to question him but the man was nowhere to be found.
From an undisclosed location, McAfee later told Wired he had escaped police hiding in a box covered with sand, fearing his life was in danger.
"I thought maybe they were coming for me. They mistook him for me. They got the wrong house," He's dead. They killed him. It spooked me out," McAfee said.
Wherever the truth lies, the incident is the last of a series of episodes made of drugs, healing herbs and financial wreckage that marked the vertiginous downfall of one of the greatest computer genius of our era.
Rise and fall
English born McAfee, 67, who worked for Nasa in the 1960s rose to world fame at the end of the 80s. At the time, he was working for Lockheed, the aerospace corporation, where he encountered one of the very first viruses that were starting to worry the fast-growing computer industry: the infamous Pakistani Brain virus.
McAfee, a software engineer with a bachelor in mathematics, reportedly hired some coders and started developing software to block the Pakistani Brain.
Once the antivirus was ready he allowed the free download of it, pioneering the shareware business.
He quit Lockheed and dedicated his efforts to his company McAfee Associates that was to become one of the world biggest antivirus companies.
But as his Silicon Valley star rose, McAfee started exhibiting signs of eccentricity.
A hard-core drug addict in his 30s and 40s, McAfee instituted sword-fighting and lunchtime Wiccan rituals at McAfee Associates, and employees were awarded points for having sex in different locations of the company's premises.
McAfee sold his stake in the company he founded in the 90s' for $100m, and started a completely different life embracing yoga and extreme sports. He raced ATVs and flew ultra-light aircrafts over desert areas in a pursuit known as "aerotrekking."
Tragedy struck when his nephew and another passenger died while practicing the dangerous low flight and McAfee was reportedly sued for $5m by the passenger's relatives.
McAfee then moved to Belize, a former British colony in central America with a popualtion of 330,000. In a 2009 interview with the New York Times he claimed all of his $100m fortune, apart from $4m, had vanished in the financial crisis.
However Gizmodo journalist Jeff Wise said McAfee told him that he moved to Belize partially because there he was safe from US law enforcement agenices.
In Belize he McAfee reportedly started researching medical applications of wild plants with his then girlfriend but without any success.
He reportedly become deeply involved with bath salts, a psychotic and hallucinogenic drug and befriended local criminals.
"He started to get really heavily into this kind of synthetic, hallucinogenic hyper-aphrodisiac. Everyone was scared of McAfee. He was walking around the beach carrying a gun," Gizmodo journalist Jeff Wise, who visited McAfee in April this year told FoxNews.
"His [McAfee's] physical appearance doesn't really inspire you to go over and make friends with him. He's a little scruffy looking," said local real estate agent, Bob Hamilton.
Worried - or paranoid - about his personal safety he started buying guns and hiring armed bodyguards.
Earlier this year Belize police broke into McAfee's house and arrested the computer expert for unlicensed drug manufacturing and possession of an unlicensed weapon.
However all the charges were later dropped and McAfee was reportedly to sue authorities for false arrest, he claimed to be connected to his refusal to donate money to a local politician, USA Today reported.
Last week, several of the guard dogs he had bought to protect his residence - and a casue of tension between him and Faull - were poisoned, according to McAfee.
McAfee told Wired he believed Belize police killed the dogs - an accusation authorities have denied.
A few days later Faull was murdered.
From somewhere in Belize and on the run, McAfee rang Wired magazine journalist Joshua Davis.
"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 not well liked by the prime minister. I am just a thorn in everybody's side."
Nonetheless, McAfee insisted he has no plans to leave the country. "I like it here," he says. "It's the nicest place on earth."
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