Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

John McAfee's dog named "Soltan" and a security guard stand on a deck in front of the beachside entrance to the home of software company founder in Ambergris Caye, Belize, Thursday Nov. 15, 2012. Software company founder John McAfee, who has been identified as a "person of interest" in the killing of his neighbour, 52-year-old Gregory Viant Faull, allegedly over a dispute about McAfee’s dogs. (Moises Castillo/AP)
John McAfee's dog named "Soltan" and a security guard stand on a deck in front of the beachside entrance to the home of software company founder in Ambergris Caye, Belize, Thursday Nov. 15, 2012. Software company founder John McAfee, who has been identified as a "person of interest" in the killing of his neighbour, 52-year-old Gregory Viant Faull, allegedly over a dispute about McAfee’s dogs. (Moises Castillo/AP)

Dogs, drugs and guns: Fugitive John McAfee’s life in Belize Add to ...

Doug Singh, Belize’s former police minister, told Reuters he was at a loss to explain Mr. 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. Nobody has anything against Mr. McAfee,” Mr. Singh said.

After making millions with his anti-virus product, Mr. 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, 10 kilometers 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 control.

A case is already pending in Belize against Mr. McAfee for possession of illegal firearms, and police previously suspected him of running a lab to make illicit synthetic drugs.

But MR. McAfee said this week he was opposed to drugs.

“My life is fucked up enough without drugs, and always has been,” Mr. 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 local reports.

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 woman.”

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 Mr. 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, Mr. 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 Mr. McAfee several times, noting top elected officials don’t have them. “It does call attention when you move with so many guards.”

Mr. McAfee’s home is in a stretch of Ambergris where the wealthiest foreigners hole up. Raw lots of land 30 meters to 61 meters can cost up to $500,000 here. Even modest-looking houses reflect multimillion-dollar investments.

On Thursday afternoon, a 23-year-old calling herself Tiffany used a key to enter Mr. McAfee’s home with another young woman and said he had spent Saturday night with them – around the time police said Mr. Faull’s murder took place.

They had not spoken to Mr. McAfee since Sunday, she said.

On Friday, an outside light was still on at his beachfront complex, and a dog roamed freely around the grounds.

Like Mr. 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 isolation.”

Single page

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobeTechnology

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories