Antivirus innovator John McAfee found dead in prison

Controversial British-born software pioneer found dead in prison cell

The antivirus software entrepreneur John McAfee, who was due to be extradited to the US on tax evasion charges, has been found dead in a Barcelona prison cell.

The Catalan justice department said doctors unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate the 75-year-old, who had collapsed in his cell at the Brians 2 penitentiary in north-eastern Spain. 

The BBC News website reported that a government statement said "everything indicates" McAfee had allegedly taken his own life.

McAfee's death came hours after a Spanish court approved his extradition to the United States to face tax charges. If he had been found guilty, McAfee could have faced decades in prison.

Crypto fan

McAfee was a colourful and controversial figure, whose company – McAfee – released the first commercially available antivirus software.

McAfee's VirusScan application was launched in 1988 and heralded the start of a multi-billion-dollar industry. McAfee sold his stake in the company McAfee Associates in 1994 for $100m.

It was bought by Intel for more than $7.6bn (£4.7bn) in 2010, and rebranded Intel Security.

McAfee stood as a US presidential candidate twice, in 2016 and 2020. He was born in Gloucestershire, UK, and was a keen promoter of cryptocurrency.

He publicly campaigned against tax and allegedly embraced drugs, guns and a hedonistic lifestyle – in 2012, he was sought for questioning in connection with the murder of his neighbour in Belize but was never charged.

McAfee's arrest and extradition

McAfee was arrested last October at Barcelona’s international airport.

He had been in jail ever since, awaiting the outcome of the US extradition proceedings.

Before his arrest, he had faced charges in Tennessee for allegedly failing to report income from promoting cryptocurrencies while also working in consultancy, making speaking engagements and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary.

Nishay Sanan, his Chicago-based attorney, told the Independent that McAfee “will always be remembered as a fighter”.

Born in 1945, John David McAfee moved to Virginia, US, as a child. He later claimed his father “beat him mercilessly” and killed himself with McAfee’s shotgun when he was 15, according to Steve Morgan, who had spoken to McAfee with regard to a proposed biography in 2016.

In recent years, McAfee had repeatedly claimed that there was a plot to get him – however, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that the court had said there was no evidence he was being prosecuted for political or ideological reasons.

McAfee – the antivirus skeptic

McAfee once admitted to the BBC's technology reporter Leo Kelion,  in 2013, that he never actually used antivirus software on his own computers.

He claimed to protect himself by constantly changing his IP [internet protocol] address, by "not attaching my name to any device I use, and by not going on to sites where you might pick up a virus”.

Further reading: John McAfee arrested on ICO-related tax evasion charges

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