John McAfee, a software engineer, businessman, two-time United States presidential candidate and fugitive, was found dead in a Spanish prison on Wednesday, with prison officials ruling it as a case of suicide.
The name McAfee was a staple for most computer owners throughout the 1990's and the 2000's, owing to the hugely popular eponymous antivirus software.
The man behind the name, though, with his eccentricities, larger-than-life personality, media stunts and run-ins with the law, earned himself a reputation of his own.
Even after his death, his name continues to reverberate on social media, inspiring wild conspiracy theories linked to his past comments and posts.
Alcohol, Drugs and Programming
McAfee was born in Gloucestershire, England, on September 18, 1945 .
His mother, an Englishwoman, fell in love with an American soldier stationed in the UK during World War II. Following the war, they moved to Virginia, US and settled down at Roanoke, where McAfee spent his younger days.
His childhood was hardly a bed of roses - his father has been reported to be an abusive alcoholic, who shot himself dead when McAfee was just 15. He himself is said to have taken to drugs and alcohol at a young age.
In the 1970s, he landed in the Silicon Valley, where he started working for numerous tech companies as a programmer.
Throughout these years, his affinity for drugs and alcohol rose steadily, fuelled by the rising popularity of substances in the region following the decade of counter-culture.
"Most of my bosses also used drugs of some kind", he once said. "I had to hide it from my mother and sometimes from my wife. But in the work environment - depending on where you worked - in some companies drugs were taken openly at lunchtime in people's offices. It was a bizarre time."
The substance abuse eventually culminated in his wife leaving him in the 1980s, and his employer Omex firing him due to the scale of his dependency.
"It was 1984, the last time that I took drugs, drank alcohol or sold drugs for that matter," he told the BBC.
The Antivirus, and the Millionaire
It is while working for defence contractor Lockdheed Martin, that McAfee came across the 'Pakistani Brain'.
The Brain Virus, or the Pakistani Brain, was a virus written by two Pakistani programmers from Lahore, and is considered to be one of the first computer viruses.
The code left him fascinated, and eventually pushed him to develop a method to disinfect computers, and spread the cure through a bulletin board system server.
And thus he set up a firm - McAfee Associates, a company he later became a vocal critic of, after leaving it. Long after his departure, McAfee Associates was acquired by Intel for $7.6 billion.
He left McAfee Associates in 1994, after which he spent more than a decade founding and selling numerous tech companies with limited success.
In 2008, after suffering financial losses during the recession, he left for the jungles in Belize, in the Central American east cost, to find a plant-base cure to infections.
The Belize Episode
In Belize, McAfee set up a research to study herbal antibiotics. His operation, however, courted numerous lawsuits from local government along with other controversies.
In April 2012, his research facility was raided by the Belize police force's Gang Suppression Unit for suspicion of producing methamphetamine, an illegal substance.
"Under no circumstances did they really believe it was a meth lab," McAfee told BBC, claiming that the raid was backlash for refusing to make campaign donation to a local political candidate.
Seven months later, he settled his issues with the authorities by donating 40 stun guns, handcuffs and batons to the local police. However, his moments of peace did not last long.
Days later, his neighbour Gregory Faull, an Orlando sports bar owner, was found dead by his housekeeper, with a 9mm bullet shell nearby.
The head of the Gang Suppression Unit told local reporters that McAfee was a 'person of interest' in the investigation, owning to rumours about him being at odds with his neighbour.
However, when the police came knocking for questioning, McAfee was nowhere to be found. He later told a Wired reporter that he had dug himself a shallow trench in the sand and buried himself, putting a cardboard box over his hide to hide himself. Apparently, he remained there for hours.
"It was extraordinarily uncomfortable," he said.
Following this episode, McAfee went into hiding, claiming that he feared for his life if he was ever captured. While 'on the run', McAfee posted frequent updates on social media, and gave a number of interviews.
Dean Barrow, Belize's Prime Minister on the other hand told reporters that McAfee was never a suspect to Faull's murder in the first place, and that he was only a 'person of interest'.
"I don't want to be unkind to the gentleman, but I believe he is extremely paranoid, even bonkers," Barrow said.
While on the run, McAfee attempted to hide his whereabouts from the world. However, while leaving Belize, he started travelling with two Vice reporters, as they made their way to Guatemala.
However, one of the images posted by Vice in their article contained metadata about the photo, including the GPS coordinates of where it was taken. Reporters around the globe figured out instantly that McAfee was actually headed to Guatemala.
He was soon arrested in Guatemala for illegal entry, and allowed to fly back to the US as a free man.
Presidential Candidacies, Prison and Death
In 2015, McAfee announced his plans to run for US Presidential Elections for the Libertarian Party. However, he failed to secure a nomination at the Libertarian Party National Convention.
In 2019, he launched yet another campaign representing the Libertarian Party for the US Presidential elections. In March 2020, he suspended his campaign, and announced his support to Libertarian Party member and performance artist Vermin Supreme.
In October 2020, McAfee was arrested in Spain at the behest of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) for tax evasion. According to the DOJ, he hid cryptocurrency, a yacht, real Estate and other properties to evade taxes.
The DOJ press release on his arrest read: "If convicted, McAfee faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison on each count of tax evasion and a maximum sentence of one year in prison on each count of willful failure to file a tax return. McAfee also faces a period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties."
A day after his arrest, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a reported alleging that McAfee and his bodyguard were involved in a fraudulent cryptocurrency pump-and-dump scheme.
The 'Q' Post And Conspiracy Theories
Minutes after reports of McAfee's death hit the news, an Instagram account used by him posted the letter 'Q', making a reference to the QAnon conspiracy theory.
It is unclear at this point who had control over his verified account. The account was later removed by the platform, which said that it is looking into the matter.
QAnon followers were quick to respond to this, theorising that McAfee died by other means than suicide.
Another post from last October, while McAfee was still in prison in Spain, reiterated the same, and also made a reference to convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who died by suicide in jail himself.
The hashtag #McAfeeDidntKillHimself has been trending throughout Thursday.
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Updated On: 2021-06-29T15:48:44+05:30
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