An investigation has begun after John McAfee, 75, the security software entrepreneur who became a fugitive from justice, was found dead in a jail cell near Barcelona on 23 June.
McAfee, who created an eponymous anti-virus software installation which made him a billionaire, had most recently become a cryptocurrency promoter but he had been hounded to his death by the authorities in the United States, who wanted him for tax evasion.
The US believes I have hidden crypto. I wish I did but it has dissolved through the many hands of Team McAfee (your belief is not required), and my remaining assets are all seized. My friends evaporated through fear of association.— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) June 16, 2021
I have nothing.
Yet, I regret nothing.
So how did a life so full of promise end so squalidly at the Brians 2 prison in Catalonia?
McAfee was born in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, in the west of England, a month after the end of the Second World War.
His mother was English but his father was a GI and as a young boy the couple settled in the US state of Virginia.
.@officialmcafee & I met 8yrs ago today. It feels like we've lived a dozen lifetimes since then. I don't recognize the girl I was when first we met but I love the woman I'm becoming. John's imprisonment is the longest we've been apart but I'll continue to fight for his freedom.❤ pic.twitter.com/TcQsYsaygn— Janice McAfee (@theemrsmcafee) December 14, 2020
McAfee claimed his father was an alcoholic who “beat him mercilessly” and eventually shot himself when his son was just 15.
Steve Morgan, who is writing McAfee’s biography, said: "A lot of people will remember him as a very troubled soul. He told me his father never showed him an ounce of affection.”
Despite his tough childhood McAfee’s natural intelligence and chutzpah were to make him a stellar success.
In the 1970s and 80s he worked as a computer programmer for NASA, Xerox and Lockheed but after detecting one of the earliest computer viruses, Brain, he decided to form his own company in 1987.
I will say this: I once bummed a cig from John McAfee years ago at the Libertarian Convention in Orlando and we talked for 15 minutes and I’ve been bored every second of my life compared to that conversation— Kat Timpf (@KatTimpf) June 24, 2021
He had soon written the code for his own anti-virus scanning software and in the late 1990s he became one of the first to sell it over the internet.
As sales of PCs boomed and people became increasingly aware of the danger of computer viruses his sales grew exponentially and by 2011 he was ready to sell McAfee to Intel for US$7.68 billion.
But having sold his company, McAfee soon lost his way.
He dabbled in politics with the Libertarian Party, enjoyed yoga, flying light aircraft and producing herbal medications and became an early adopter of cryptocurrency.
We asked John McAfee for a message to the youth, before he got arrested last year. This is what he said. pic.twitter.com/uR1YIAxJoe— Countere Magazine (@CountereCulture) June 24, 2021
But his personal life began to spiral out of control.
In November 2012, he was accused by police in Belize of shooting dead his American neighbour Gregory Viant Faull, 52, after a dispute about his barking guard dogs.
McAfee had moved to the idyllic island of Ambergris Caye, off the coast of Belize, in 2009.
After Faull’s death McAfee fled to neighbouring Guatemala while protesting his innocence.
I know everyone loves conspiracies, but if there was a ever a guy who might say something like "I will absolutely 100% never kill myself in prison" and then kill himself in prison, it's John McAfee.— Respectable Lawyer (@RespectableLaw) June 24, 2021
Belize’s Prime Minister Dean Barrow was quoted as saying: "I don't want to be unkind to the gentleman, but I believe he is extremely paranoid, even bonkers.''
The tycoon never returned to Belize but instead flitted around various countries, mostly in the Caribbean.
At one point he was arrested in the Dominican Republic after weapons, ammunition and military-style gear were found on a yacht.
In 2019, a court in Faull’s home state of Florida ordered McAfee to pay US$25 million after a wrongful death lawsuit.
McAfee proudly refused to pay, tweeting: “I have not responded to a single one of my 37 lawsuits for the past 11 years."
Prosecutors in Tennessee claimed he evaded taxes after failing to report income made from promoting cryptocurrencies, speaking engagements and selling the rights to his life story and they sought to extradite him.
McAfee, who met his 38-year-old wife Janice in Florida in 2013, was arrested in Spain in October 2020 and earlier this week Spain's National Court upheld the decision to extradite him to the US.
His lawyer, Nishay Sanan, said McAfee would “always be remembered as a fighter.''
Mr Sanan said: “He tried to love this country but the US government made his existence impossible. They tried to erase him, but they failed.''