The man behind McAfee anti-virus software has lived a riotous life that has seen him accused of murder and now arrested for tax evasion. He’s an extraordinary character, as I found out when I lived alongside him in Belize.
As the law finally caught up with anti-virus software pioneer John McAfee, I had to wonder if that meant an end to the outlandish escapades of this paranoid pirate who, for several years, was one of my closest neighbours.
Born the son of a US serviceman and British mother in the Forest of Dean in the UK, McAfee, whose eponymous app still comes packaged alongside the operating system on most PCs running Windows software, bought a house just a couple of hundred metres up the beach from where I lived at the start of the millennium on an island off the coast of Belize in Central America.
While his estimated fortune was once put at $100million, his modest purchase was a collection of small, neat bungalows linked by covered walkways right on the beach. The place was empty at the time because the former owners had perished at sea during 2000’s Hurricane Keith.
The husband and wife had attempted to rescue a catamaran they owned by sailing out beyond the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest coral reef in the world, just a few hundred metres from the beach, in a bid to avoid the worst of the weather during the storm.
Both their bodies and the catamaran washed ashore just a couple days later. The wrecked cat was left outside the house for a couple of years as a grim reminder of their foolhardiness, until McAfee bought the place and cleared the debris away.
But not all was right in paradise for the newest resident on our island.
By its very nature, this remote destination attracts more than its fair share of people not wanting to be found. Heavy drinking and trying to convince passing tourists to invest in their latest business scams are the favourite pastimes of many of the locals, whose ranks draw primarily from a steady flow of US expatriates looking for somewhere to live where no one asks too many questions.
My own next door neighbour was a retired builder from Texas who would start his drinking day well before noon. When he was found shot dead with his own .38 gun in his hand, it was attributed to suicide, but rumours of shady loans and business deals gone sour featured heavily in island gossip at the time.
As part of a key route between Colombia and Mexico, Belize has long been a drop-off point for cocaine traffickers. Fast boats packed with cocaine and tanks of fuel would take a non-stop three-day trip from Colombia to the isolated and deserted beaches and cayes off the Belizean mainland, from where the drugs would be collected to continue their journey while the boats they arrived in were simply abandoned or sunk.