Anti-virus software pioneer John McAfee. Picture: REUTERS
Anti-virus software pioneer John McAfee. Picture: REUTERS

HOLLYWOOD must be salivating at the thought of getting its hands on the rights to the riveting story of antivirus pioneer John McAfee, who is essentially live-blogging his life on the run from the police in the Central American country of Belize.

It’s hard to tell at this stage whether the UK-born, US-raised computer programmer and creator of the McAfee antivirus software is "paranoid" or "bonkers", as he has been described by Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow, or if he really is being hounded and persecuted by the state for no good reason, as he claims.

But the story certainly has all the elements of a gripping cinematic thriller.

According to the Belize authorities, McAfee is not a suspect in the November 10 killing of his neighbour, Gregory Faull, but is a "person of interest" who is wanted for questioning in relation to the case.

According to McAfee, the authorities have been trying to pin something on him for a while, he has been subjected to raids on his home by the Gang Suppression Unit, a quasi-military police squad, and several of his friends and colleagues are being held in Belizean prisons on trumped-up charges.

What makes his story so tantalising is not just it’s about a legendary multimillionaire tech entrepreneur on the lam, but how he is using the internet to get his side of the story out, almost seeming to taunt the authorities in the process.

Not only has he posted 36 entries since November 17, on his blog, The Hinterland, but he is also keeping a running commentary on Twitter, where one of his latest tweets reads: "The ‘questioning’ is bogus. I would only talk with a lawyer present. A lawyer will say — say nothing. The police know this. Why the manhunt?"

In a blog post titled Watchfulness, McAfee tells how he returned to his house in disguise after two days on the run because he "realised that unless I knew, moment by moment, what was happening, my chances of coming out of this intact, both emotionally and physically, were slim".

"The first day I coloured my full beard and my hair light grey — almost white. I darkened the skin of my face, neck and hands carefully with shoe polish and put on an LA Saints baseball cap with the brim facing backwards and tufts of the front of my hair sticking out unkempt through the band. I stuffed my cheeks with chewed bubble gum stuck to the outside of my upper and lower molars — making my face appear much fatter. I darkened and browned my front teeth. I stuffed a shaved down tampon deep into my right nostril and died the tip dark brown — giving my nose an awkward, lopsided, disgusting appearance. I put on a pair of ragged brown pants with holes patched and darned. I wore an old, ragged long sleeve shirt. I donned an old Guatemalan style sarape and toted a bag containing Guatemalan woven goods. I adjusted my posture so that I appeared six inches shorter than my actual height and slowly walked up and down the beach with a pronounced limp, pushing an old single speed bicycle and peddling my wares to tourists and reporters using a broken English with a heavy Spanish accent."

It ends: "PS No one at the house, including the staff, know that I am nearby. If the police are reading this, do not randomly round up everyone for harbouring a fugitive. Please."

This story has many possible endings and not many of them are likely to be happy for McAfee. But whatever happens, I can’t wait to see it on the big screen.

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