Editor’s Note: In search of in-hiding Internet security guru John McAfee, CNN Correspondent Martin Savidge traveled not just to the Central American country of Belize, but to a remote island off the coast, where down a rutted road he found the remnants of an eccentric-in-paradise lifestyle.
Internet security pioneer is in hiding after neighbor's killing
McAfee's compound is on remote island off Belize
Two women claim to be among his seven live-in girlfriends
Authorities dug up McAfee's dead dogs, took their heads
To look for John McAfee, you must be willing to travel a narrow, rutted and muddy road. And the more I bumped and backfired along it in my temperamental, rented, gas golf cart … the deeper down the rabbit hole I fell. This is one weird story.
Some say it began a week ago Friday when the man who practically invented Internet security, John McAfee, shot his dogs.
McAfee ‘frightened for his life’
Others say it goes back to April when police raided his compound on the mainland looking for drugs and guns. They found both but the guns had permits and the drugs were legal. Some say police never got over their disappointment. The Austrian woman I had picked up with my golf cart told me McAfee was trying to make a female version of Viagra.
I’m not in the habit of picking up hitchhikers but it’s customary here to give a lift to locals. As they say, “You never know when YOU might need a ride.” Judging by the sound of my golf cart, that time wasn’t far off.
McAfee lives in the remote northern part of Ambergris Caye, an island 36 miles from the Belize mainland. I hopped a 15-minute prop-powered shuttle only to find his home was an additional six miles from the town of San Pedro.
You might wonder why someone with so much money would live so far from town down such a difficult road. Rounding a sandy curve it quickly became obvious: the staggering beauty of the Belize Barrier Reef coast.
Residents say the farther north on the island you go the higher the price of real estate.
McAfee’s view is worth a fortune. An endless stretch of blue sky overhangs an ocean of pastel greens and blues framed by coconut palms. Next to a long wooden dock with chairs at its end sits a fast-looking boat with twin outboards.
I take a seat in McAfee’s front yard. Under Belize law I’m not trespassing since the beach is public property. Behind me the wood-sided, thatch-roofed home painted purple and yellow sits eerily empty with one porch light on. A rusted telescope on a balcony stares off to the horizon. The only sound is the wind.
The day before, I met “Tiffany” here. She claimed to be one of McAfee’s girlfriends, one of seven. They all live together, sharing McAfee’s houses and fantasies. He’s 67. Tiffany says she’s 23 and they have been lovers for three years. The girl beside her gives no name and only says she’s 19.
Tiffany says she’s not seen or heard from McAfee in nearly a week – not since the neighbor, Greg Faull, was discovered dead and McAfee went into hiding.
Three arrested in killing in Belize
Now a day later the 23-year-old had vanished too.
Half a dozen dogs lie sorry-looking or listless in the yard – thin, hungry and thirsty. They’re lucky to be alive.
Dogs just might be the key to this mystery.
Officials say their barking and aggressive behavior was a frequent source of friction between McAfee and Faull, a 52-year-old contractor who retired to Belize from Florida and lived next door.
On November 9, McAfee told police someone poisoned four of his dogs. Tiffany said to put them out of their misery he shot each one in the head and buried them.
Then two days later someone shot Faull in the head in his own living room. A 9mm shell was found on the second step on the first floor, and Faull was found dead on the second floor.
And McAfee had vanished.
Police say they only want to talk to the famous internet security guru.
Instead, McAfee talks only to reporters. Over a phone, he gives out all sorts of colorful quotes and tantalizing hints of his whereabouts, each contradicting the previous. He talks about moving every four hours and sleeping on a lice-infested bed, of watching “Rawhide” on an old tube TV, then claiming to be in a house not far from his compound, then no, actually he’s been in his compound the whole time, saying he doesn’t like the look of the traffic on the highway. This island has no highway.
This almost daily “catch me if you can” game is wearing thin on investigators. The longer it all goes on, the more suspicious police become.
Police want to question McAfee
So five days ago they dug up his dogs. I found the partially exposed graves next to a trash pit in the back behind his priceless ocean view. The flies led me there. I asked a caretaker if he was here when the police came for them. “Yes” he said, then added another tick up the strange-o-meter by revealing, “They cut off their heads.”
Since only the heads had bullets, the investigators put the rest of the remains back in the holes, then hurriedly and poorly recovered them.
A source close to the investigation said authorities probably want to see if the slugs in the dogs match the one in Faull.
I stepped on the gas and my golf cart sputtered to life. Like me, it seemed to dread the bone-jarring return to town. My phone beeped; a local friend texted me to say McAfee had just proclaimed a $25,000-dollar (just over 12,000 U.S. dollars) reward for information leading to the arrest of Faull’s killer.
A murdered neighbor, headless dogs and a millionaire on the run granting interviews and now offering a lottery-like reward.
Maybe someone could make up a more intriguing story … but it wouldn’t be easy.