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Spanish justice ends John McAfee case: ‘There is no indication of anything other than suicide’

The family loses the final battle before a Barcelona court, which refuses to investigate further into the death of the founder of the antivirus software

John McAfee, during a conference in Beijing in 2016.
John McAfee, during a conference in Beijing in 2016.FRED DUFOUR (AFP)

John McAfee, the founder of the antivirus that bears his name, died by suicide in cell number 71 of the Brians prison in Barcelona on June 23, 2021, a few days after learning that he was going to be extradited to the United States for tax fraud. He was 75 years old. “There is no indication of anything other than death by suicide, nothing at all,” concluded the Provincial Court of Barcelona two years after McAfee’s wife appealed the initial decision to end the case because she had doubts about the circumstances of the death.

The judicial decision puts an end to the criminal proceedings. Since his death, the body of the controversial businessman has remained inside the premises of the Institute of Legal Medicine of Catalonia. The family now has several options on the table: to cremate him in a cemetery in Barcelona, to begin the (long and expensive) procedures to repatriate the body to the United States, or to perform a new private autopsy, since the Spanish justice system has already had enough with an investigation whose evidence leads, inexorably, to a single hypothesis: suicide.

“The case is simple, even though it is sad and regrettable in terms of the loss of a human life,” wrote the judges, affirm the magistrates, who have taken almost two years to issue an extensive decision that EL PAÍS has seen. The judges noted that the family did not put “another hypothesis” forward other than suicide. “There is not a single element of suspicion of charges against third parties, of criminal action.”

Janice McAfee, during an interview with EL PAÍS.
Janice McAfee, during an interview with EL PAÍS.garcía-Santos

The businessman’s partner, Janice McAfee, has led the unsuccessful fight with the Spanish justice system, suspicious that events may not have occurred as the authorities claim. Janice asked that the investigation be reopened and new procedures carried out; among others, a detailed description of the removal of the body, a complete autopsy report and, most curiously, an analysis of the knots on the laces of the sneakers that McAfee was wearing.

All of these requests are “impertinent,” said the judges, because the work conducted to date no longer leaves any room for doubt. “Can the autopsy report be expanded? In theory yes, to infinity, but no element exists that gives rise to doubt that the autopsy has not been carried out according to the proper standards.” The investigation included a police report, prison camera footage, an autopsy report, statements from officials, a record of the body removal, a report from the medical services and more. The court’s decision backs the original conclusion of the first judge who, in October 2021, dismissed the case.

The decision goes over McAfee’s last hours in prison, which were recorded by surveillance cameras inside the penitentiary. In that footage, “no strange circumstances were detected.” In the morning, an official talked to the inmate, who refused to go out into the yard. In the evening, at 6:10 p.m., another worker entered the cell, where McAfee was alone, and saw him hanging by his neck from a string that he had anchored to the window. Between him and another worker, they cut the cord and laid him down on the bunk. He still had a weak pulse. Medical teams arrived and tried, without success, to revive him. He had been in prison for more than three months, after being arrested due to an international arrest warrant by U.S. authorities. McAfee had opposed his extradition to the U.S. to face tax fraud charges. A week before killing himself, he was informed, via video conference, that there was no going back and that he would be transferred to America shortly.

In an interview with this newspaper, Janice regretted the slowness of the Spanish justice system in responding to her demands. “It is difficult not to feel that they are doing it in an intentional and cruel, inhuman way,” she criticized. From the beginning, she held that the internet guru had not expressed anything particularly worrying that would make them suspect his intention to kill himself. That same day, she said, he spoke with her and said goodbye as he always did. Investigators found a note in one of the prisoner’s pockets: “Instead of living it fully, I want to control my future, which does not exist,” he wrote. Janice said it was a draft of one of the tweets he dictated to her when they spoke on the phone, and not a suicide note. This newspaper has tried to contact her without success about the latest judicial decision.

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