BELIZE CITY, Belize – Police urged software company founder John McAfee on Tuesday to come in for questioning and help solve the killing of his neighbour on the Caribbean island where they lived.
But McAfee, the creator of the antivirus program of the same name, told The Associated Press in an email that he was not planning to turn himself in.
“Suspect or no, I believe the government wants me out of the way. Too many people have died in custody in this country so I Intend to do nothing that puts me in their custody,” said the message from an email account that McAfee identified as his during a conversation with an AP journalist in May.
He gave no indication of his whereabouts.
McAfee, 67, has been identified as a “person of interest” in the killing of 52-year-old Gregory Viant Faull, whose body was found Sunday.
McAfee, the inventor of antivirus software of the same name, reportedly told Wired magazine Monday that he had nothing to do with the death, but feared police would kill him if they found him. He said he hid in the sand when he saw police coming to his house Sunday and put a cardboard box over his head to breathe.
Belize police said they believed McAfee was still in Belize, but would contact authorities in the United States, Mexico and Guatemala if there were signs he had left the country.
“We want to encourage him to come in,” Raphael Martinez, spokesman for Belize’s Ministry of National Security, told the AP on Tuesday. “If he feels threatened, we need to tell him, ‘Get someone to go along with you, but come in. Let’s solve this crime and you can free yourself.’ “
Martinez said two people have been detained in the investigation for questioning. But he added that police had yet to establish a motive in the crime.
Faull was found with a gunshot wound to his head inside his two-story home north of San Pedro, a town on the island of Ambergris Caye, Martinez said. The housekeeper discovered the body Sunday morning and called police. Martinez said that no charges had been filed in the case.
McAfee told Wired that whoever shot Faull may have been gunning for him instead and mistakenly killed his neighbour.
San Pedro Mayor Daniel Guerrero said Faull had given the town council a letter complaining that McAfee’s dogs were running loose, chasing cyclists and attacking people and that McAfee’s security guards trespassing on other homeowners’ property.
Still, Guerrero said there wasn’t enough evidence for him to say McAfee is a suspect.
“Both of them were my friends. It’s hard. It’s something that has shocked the community”, Guerrero said.
A man who works as a security guard at McAfee’s beach villa, located two houses from Faull’s home, said that four of McAfee’s dogs were poisoned late last week. Blame focused on “an American who lives up the way,” he said, motioning in the direction of Faull’s residence.
Wired, however, quoted McAfee as saying that his dogs had been poisoned Friday night and that he blamed the deaths on Belize authorities, not Faull.
The security guard did not want to give his name for fear of retaliation. He said police had searched McAfee’s house and found one gun, a rifle, that the guard said was legally registered.
Faull’s family said in a statement that Faull, owner of a construction business in Orlando, Florida, had just finished rebuilding his Belize home and was planning to offer it as a vacation rental while he sailed the seas.
“Losing Greg leaves a hole in our hearts and our lives. We urge law enforcement authorities in Belize and internationally to bring those responsible to justice quickly,” the statement said.
McAfee sold his stake in the anti-virus software company that is named for him in the early 1990s and moved to Belize about three years ago to lower his taxes.
He told The New York Times in 2009 that he had lost all but $4 million of his $100 million fortune in the U.S. financial crisis.
Last April, Belize police raided McAfee’s home looking for drugs and guns. McAfee said officers found guns, which he said were legal, and he was released without charge after being detained for a few hours.
He also has another property on mainland Belize, a compound of thatched-roof homes near the Mexico border.
One resident of the island told the AP that Faull had complained about McAfee’s behaviour, and others said the former software executive was hard to befriend.
“His physical appearance doesn’t really inspire you to go over and make friends with him. He’s a little scruffy looking,” said real estate agent, Bob Hamilton.
Police said Faull’s computer and phone were missing, but there were no signs of forced entry at his home. Police reported finding a single 9-mm shell casing and said it appeared Faull was killed between late Saturday and Sunday morning, which was a rainy night on the Caribbean island. Faull was last seen at 10 p.m. Saturday.
Associated Press writer Adriana Gomez Licon in Mexico City contributed to this report.