Software-company founder John McAfee said Monday he has fled from Belize using a bizarre ruse, claiming in a blog posting he had evaded authorities by staging an elaborate distraction in neighboring Mexico.
MEXICO CITY — Software-company founder John McAfee said Monday he has fled from Belize using a bizarre ruse, adding yet another chapter in what threatens to become one of the biggest media fugitive frenzies since O.J. Simpson led police on a low-speed chase in 1994.
McAfee, 67, claimed in a blog posting he had evaded authorities by staging an elaborate distraction in neighboring Mexico.
In an email to The Associated Press, McAfee confirmed a posting to his website in which he described, in what appeared to be joking tones, how he mounted the ruse.
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“My ‘double,’ carrying on (sic) a North Korean passport under my name, was detained in Mexico for preplanned misbehavior,” McAfee wrote in the posting, “but due to indifference on the part of authorities (he) was evicted from the jail and was unable to serve his intended purpose in our exit plan.”
On Friday, he gave an on-camera interview to CNN that aired Monday from a “safe house on a tropical island paradise.”
In the interview, he said he has been hiding in plain sight, he says, through a series of homemade disguises and dye jobs.
He maintained his innocence in the death of his neighbor, Gregory Viant Faull, 52, and repeated his claims that Belizean authorities in San Pedro Town where he lives are out to get him for failing to pay a bribe.
About a month before his slaying, Faull had hand-delivered a letter to the San Pedro Town Council complaining about McAfee’s security detail and his dogs.
Then, on Nov. 11, Faull’s housekeeper discovered him dead from a single gunshot to the back of the head.
McAfee has refused to turn himself in for questioning, saying he fears Belizean police would kill him, and has titillated the media with phone calls, emails and blog posts detailing his life on the lam.
Police in Belize have called McAfee a “person of interest” in the slaying of Faull and asked him to turn himself in for questioning.
He has not been charged, however, and thus can travel at will.
Faull’s home is a couple of houses down from the compound where McAfee kept several noisy dogs and armed guards and entertained a steady stream of young women brought in from the mainland.
McAfee acknowledges that his dogs were bothersome and that Faull had complained about them but denied killing Faull.
Several of the dogs were poisoned shortly before Faull’s killing.
For two weeks, McAfee refused to turn himself in and claimed to be hiding in plain sight, wearing disguises and watching as police raided his house. It was unclear, however, how much of what McAfee — a confessed practical joker — said and wrote was true.
McAfee did not describe the entire plan, nor did he say where exactly he was now. He noted only that “we are not in Belize, but not quite out of the woods yet.”
In a previous interview with the AP, McAfee had said he had no plans to leave Belize.
“I’m not going to leave this country,” he had told the AP. “I love this country; this is my home. I intend to fight the injustice that’s here from here, I can’t do much from outside, can I?”
In Monday’s post, McAfee said he left Belize because he thought “Sam,” the young Belizean woman who has accompanied him since he went on the lam, was in danger.
“I left Belize because of a series of events which led both Sam and I to believe that she was in danger of capture. She has been my go-between and my eyes and ears in the outside world. I decided to make the move. I will be returning to Belize after I have place (sic) Sam in a safe position. My fight is in Belize, and I can do little in exile.”
Police sources in Belize said Monday they believed he was still in the country.
The sparsely populated border between the two countries is unguarded and unmarked in many places.
Rumors arose over the weekend that McAfee had been caught, but Belizean police quickly denied that.
Belize’s prime minister, Dean Barrow, has expressed doubts about McAfee’s mental state: “I don’t want to be unkind to the gentleman, but I believe he is extremely paranoid, even bonkers.”
McAfee, who is polite and coherent in telephone conversations, brushes off such accusations, telling the AP “if people want to call that paranoia, they can do so if you wish, that will not concern me.”
McAfee, the creator of the McAfee anti-virus program, has led an eccentric life since he sold his stake in the anti-virus software company that is named after 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, ultralight aircraft and producing herbal medications.
McAfee has never said where he’s hiding. But in his blog, he has claimed to have disguised himself as a grungy street peddler and a foul-mouthed German tourist.
McAfee’s interview on Friday with CNN was arranged through “middle men, telephone calls with ever-changing numbers and, finally, a cloak-and-dagger meeting complete with a secret phase and response. The phrase: ‘Sorry I’m late.’ The response: ‘That’s OK; we are waiting for our co-worker,’ ” CNN said.
“I will certainly not turn myself in, and I will certainly not quit fighting,” McAfee told CNN. “I will not stop my blog.”
While he’s on the run, McAfee continues to be joined by his female companion, Sam, but has now picked up two additional travelers.
Vice Magazine reported Monday that its editor-in-chief and photographer/videographer have been following McAfee for the past four days.
Vice plans to produce a “long-form documentary about his ordeal that will provide answers to many open questions and set the record straight,” the magazine said Monday. “It will be nothing but absolutely epic, that much we can assure you.”
In his blog, McAfee wrote that, “I am currently safe and in the company of two intrepid journalist from Vice Magazine, and, of course, Sam. We are not in Belize, but not quite out of the woods yet. We are well, but extremely tired.”
Wired magazine later said on its website that location information embedded in the photo shows McAfee and the journalists were at Guatemala’s Rio Dulce National Park, near the border with Belize, when the photo was taken.
A representative of the Faull family said Monday that the real issues — the murder of an American who by all accounts was well-liked by his neighbors on Belize’s Ambergris Caye — are getting lost.
“The real issues are that a human life was violently taken, (and) authorities lack all the information we’re beyond the danger of them being lost, it’s become entertainment. This is tragic to the family,” said Dan Keeney of Texas-based DPK Public Relations, who has issued statements on behalf of the Faull family.