BARCELONA—John McAfee, whose unusual life ranged from brilliant tech engineer to extravagant global fugitive to eccentric jailbird, was strangely reclusive before prison officials in Spain found him dead around 6 p.m. local time—hanging by the neck in his cell in an apparent suicide.
After the 75-year-old received official word at 4 p.m. yesterday that he would be extradited to the U.S. to face tax-evasion charges, McAfee reportedly asked jail workers at the Barcelona prison Brians 2, located in Sant Esteve de Sesrovires, if he could be alone for a few hours in his cell, according to the Spanish daily Diario AS.
Normally, a prisoner deemed suicidal would be obliged to be accompanied by another inmate. But McAfee was not considered by prison authorities to be suicidal. Penitentiary rules also allowed him the right to time alone.
McAfee was nabbed at Barcelona’s airport at the request of the U.S. Justice Department on Oct. 3, 2020, as he was preparing to board a flight to Istanbul with a British passport. Law enforcement officials had been alerted to his presence after he posted on social media near Tarragona, in Catalonia.
The ruling by Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, was a critical blow to the entrepreneur known for his penchant for drugs, sex, and scandal. Ultimately, the court ruled against all of McAfee’s claims that he was being politically persecuted for his “activism” against the U.S. tax system.
“There is no supporting evidence that such a thing could be happening,” the High Court ruled, maintaining that the “internal motivations” for why McAfee did not declare his taxes during that period did not matter.
The court added that McAfee’s claims had “more to do with subjective convictions and allegedly exculpatory justifications that have no solid base in reality.” The country’s top court insisted that the software entrepreneur’s “importance socially, economically, or in any other area” did not “give him immunity.”
Nor did the judges accept McAfee’s claim that he should be allowed to remain in Spain on humanitarian grounds. McAfee’s lawyers had argued that the sentence in the U.S. would essentially mean a life behind bars. They also claimed that McAfee was in delicate health.
But the court wasn’t buying it. “This is not life imprisonment, even in the case most unfavorable to his interests,” it found. And in the second case, the court said it did not see that McAfee was suffering from “serious health problems”—an issue that would at any rate only be taken into account “at the moment that the extradition is carried out.”
While his death is being considered a suicide, prison workers were nevertheless shocked that McAfee had taken his life. One prison official described McAfee as “a prisoner for economic crimes with an absolutely normal life” in jail.
McAfee’s death has inspired several inexplicable twists—including a suggestion by former NSA consultant and data privacy advocate Edward Snowden that hacker Julian Assange could be next to die in jail.
“Europe should not extradite those accused of non-violent crimes to a court system so unfair—and prison system so cruel—that native-born defendants would rather die than become subject to it. Julian Assange could be next,” Snowden tweeted on Wednesday.
In life, McAfee embraced conspiracy theories. While in jail, he wrote that he would never take his own life. “I am content in here. I have friends. The food is good. All is well. Know that if I hang myself, a la Epstein, it will be no fault of mine,” McAfee tweeted last October.
He has inspired conspiracy theories in his death, as well. On Wednesday, an ominous Instagram post with the letter “Q” appeared on his official account shortly after reports of his suicide had been made public.
McAfee’s lawyer, Javier Villalba, told Reuters on Thursday that McAfee died out of pure fear of what his life would be like having to face U.S. charges. “This is the result of a cruel system,” she proclaimed, “that had no reason to keep this man in jail for so long.”
U.S. prosecutors will likely ask the judge overseeing the tax evasion case to dismiss the charges against McAfee in light of his death.
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.