SAN PEDRO, Belize – Software company founder John McAfee says he’s hiding in plain sight, wearing a disguise as he watches police and reporters stake out his home — and blogging about it all.
In the latest twist in the highly-publicized case, McAfee has started his own blog, in which he describes life on the lam after police in Belize called him a “person of interest” in the slaying of fellow American Gregory Viant Faull and asked him to turn himself in for questioning.
In phones interviews with The Associated Press, McAfee has never said where he’s hiding. But in his blog this week, he claims to have disguised himself as a grungy street peddler and a foul-mouthed German tourist, and claims he approached an Associated Press reporter outside his staked-out home on the Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye, and almost sold the reporter a wood carving.
It’s hard to separate fact from fiction in the whole account, but one thing is clear — seldom has there been more detailed coverage of someone on the lam since O.J. Simpson led police on a low-speed chase in 1994, and much of that detail is being provided by McAfee himself.
The Internet-savvy former tech-company founder has talked about his case with reporters via email, on cellphone calls from undisclosed locations, and now in his blog, “Who is McAfee? The official blog of John McAfee,” whose creation he announced Saturday in an interview with the AP.
“Anyone who would like to read the blog and check out the references, will understand my reluctance to turn myself in,” he said, referring to his distrust of the Belizean government and particularly its Gang Suppression Unit, a quasi-military police squad. McAfee also described life on the run as “very fearful” and said it has “not been comfortable.”
But in a blog post Monday, he described it in almost fanciful terms, describing how he donned a far-fetched disguise and watched as police searched his house and reporters gathered.
“I darkened the skin of my face, neck and hands carefully with shoe polish and put on an LA Saints baseball cap with the brim facing backward and tufts of the front of my hair sticking out unkempt through the band,” according to the post. McAfee confirmed the authenticity of the blog in an email which he has been using to communicate with the AP.
“I stuffed my cheeks with chewed bubble gum stuck to the outside of my upper and lower molars – making my face appear much fatter. I darkened and browned my front teeth,” he wrote. “I wore an old, ragged long sleeve shirt. I donned an old Guatemalan style serape and toted a bag containing a variety of Guatemalan woven goods.
“I adjusted my posture so that I appeared a good six inches shorter than my actual height and slowly walked up and down the beach with a pronounced limp, pushing an old single speed bicycle and peddling my wares to tourists and reporters using a broken English with a heavy Spanish accent. On my second day, while peddling small wooden carvings, I nearly sold a dolphin carving to an Associated Press reporter standing at the edge of my dock. He was pulled away from my enticement by an urgent phone call.”
None of the four Associated Press reporters and cameramen who had reported from outside his home north of the town of San Pedro recalled having been approached by anyone matching that description.
McAfee, 67, claims even police didn’t recognize him.
“I watched the police search my residence 7 times,” he wrote. “At one point I got too close and was angrily ordered to go away. “
He claimed that other disguises included posing as a foul-mouthed German tourist spewing profanities.
“On subsequent days using different disguises, I did the same general thing, one day selling tamales and burritos that I had purchased wholesale from a real vendor, on another pretending to be a drunk German tourist with a partially bandaged face and wearing speedo swimming trunks and a distasteful, oversized Hawaiian shirt.”
As with his other stories, it has been difficult to verify any of McAfee’s claims. One resident who lives near McAfee’s home, which is two doors down from Faull’s, also doesn’t remember seeing any of the three characters McAfee describes.
Faull was shot to death in early November. McAfee acknowledges that Faull had complained about his dogs, which were poisoned shortly before Faull’s killing, but he says he didn’t kill him.
“He did not like my dogs, but neither did any of my neighbours. I didn’t like them myself sometimes, they did bark at night and they were annoying,” McAfee said in the Saturday interview. “I did not kill the man and I had no reason to do so,” he said, suggesting he had an alibi — something corroborated by at least one young woman who said she spent the night at McAfee’s house the night Faull was murdered. “There were many people at the house with me.”
McAfee, the creator of the McAfee antivirus program, has led a life of eccentricity since he 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. However, a story on the Gizmodo website quoted him as calling that claim “not very accurate at all.” He has dabbled in yoga, ultra-light aircraft and producing herbal medications.
Neighbours say McAfee seemed to keep company with a lot of younger women, and in his blog he acknowledged that raised some questions.
“Many have commented that these women were only with me because of my money – a fact that I have to agree with,” he wrote.
“I am wealthy and living in a country of extreme poverty,” McAffee added. “Parents here ‘promote’ attractive daughters to men with money constantly … I am not foolish enough to believe that many young women could love a 67 year man.”
Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson reported from Mexico City.
McAfee’s blog: http://www.whoismcafee.com/