Note: The following article contains discussion of themes including suicide and sexual assault that some readers may find upsetting.
Netflix's new true crime documentary Running With The Devil is a true wild ride as you're given a front row seat to a billionaire on the brink, living a life on the run in real time.
Accused of murdering his next door neighbour Greg Faull in 2012, John McAfee – founder of the $14billion McAfee antivirus software company – went on the run rather than face the police, convinced he was being hunted by a series of drug cartels, the government, as well as a slew of other, faceless enemies.
Along the way, journalists, a Vice film crew, and security guards were brought along for the ride, as McAfee and the women in his life – mainly wife Janice Dyson – indulged in heavy drinking, bath salts and miscellaneous drugs for breakfast, let alone the rest of the day, feeding into his paranoia and sense of grandeur.
During this time he ran for President in the 2016 election, got married, and mainly lived on a boat while travelling the world, adopting a series of ludicrous disguises, faking disabilities and paying people off to avoid detection.
One of those who joined him was his ghost writer, Alex Cody Foster, who across a period of six months in 2018, came to know McAfee on an intimate level as he was tasked with writing his biography. Even when McAfee insisted he was being tracked, and people were coming after him to kill him off, running at a moment's notice to a new location.
Thing is… was McAfee maybe right in his madness?
In an exclusive chat with Digital Spy, Foster reveals the one hour and 45 minute documentary barely scratches the surface of what he experienced in the presence of McAfee. As a ghostwriter, Foster's work involved him writing as McAfee – and as a man who takes his work seriously, this involved months of interviews and time with him to write his point of view. In exchange, McAfee had to give Foster a no-holds-barred insight into his life.
What he discovered is far more than he could have ever imagined – but it's not as if he went in lightly, knowing from the start he stood accused of murder and rape among a series of other crimes. Despite this, Foster acknowledges he didn't quite know what he was getting himself into.
"I just could not have ever imagined that I would be living with him, going on the run with him, having a gun in a holster at my side because the Sinaloa Cartel is tailing us and might want to pick us up," Foster tells us. "He asked me one time, 'Have you ever had to kill anybody for one of your clients, Alex?' I said no, and he said, 'Well, you might now!' I had no conception of what was in store for me."
McAfee is an eccentric, larger than life character who laughs and embraces the moniker of being a 'real life version of Batman's Joker' when approached with the comparison in Running With The Devil. He's a man that knows his wealth gives him a level of protection to the point he could potentially get away with anything. It doesn't take long, or much of a push, to think this could include murder.
In one chilling moment on one of Foster's tapes, McAfee seemingly alludes to the idea he murdered his abusive father at the age of 17, getting away with the killing for decades, seemingly without consequence.
When asked directly, Foster acknowledges to us he does believe McAfee is responsible for the murder of American expat Faull, who died of a single gunshot wound to the head in his Belize home.
However, he adds McAfee never confirmed it in his presence, instead making numerous alternate accounts of the events of that evening. Among those are claims his then-girlfriend did it to avenge the death of her dog by poisoning, the Cartel did it in a completely unrelated matter to him, or the Belizian police set him up after he refused to give them a $2million pay-off for catching him with drugs.
None of these Foster believed, telling us simply: "That's very elaborate. Why not just kill John? That doesn't make any sense." He ultimately theorises the tech whizz paid someone to kill Faull, rather than doing it himself.
But McAfee is also clearly a lesson in charisma, charming and/or buying those around him with ease. At least a dozen people joined him on his eight-year fugitive run, which at points included dancing around a boat with a heavy-duty automatic rifle while high on bath salts and 'drinking more whiskey than water'.
Foster spent an estimated 35 days with McAfee over the course of six months, joining him for weeks at a time before returning to reality to write up what he'd learned. Despite the life-threatening situations he found himself in, Foster stuck it out. If anything, he was charmed by him, and speaks about him at points in the same way you would an old friend.
In the film, he brands McAfee "the most brilliant, manipulative person he's ever met", and during our discussion, this is echoed in his memories with him.
"John treated me like his son, he even called me son," Foster says. "He was gonna make me executive advisor of his company... There's so many sides of him, he was a genius. He was brilliant. He was so kind – he gave one of his security guys a house, a half-million dollar home. Just gave it to him. The guy still owns it, I talked to him a few weeks ago. He gave another like a $60,000 souped up truck, and he paid for all our meals everywhere we went. He would look me in the eye and say, 'How are you doing, son? What's going on? Like how are you?'
"He can be so genuine and so real, so poetic… but he could also be so dark, so paranoid, and so dangerous."
And as for the situations he found himself in?
"I loved it. I was like on a thrill ride," Foster adds. "It was like a great grand adventure for me, and unlike many of my ghost writing colleagues who are like, twice or three times my age, they're not big risk takers. In my opinion, the higher the risk, the higher the reward. So I've always been a risk taker. And in my career, it's been no different. John was the ultimate risk, the ultimate challenge and I love a challenge. So I was just all about it. Until I wasn't."
Despite the adrenaline rush of being a guest witness to this life and lifestyle, everyone has a line that they draw. For Foster, this finally came in the latter half of 2018, when he became privy to a rape accusation against McAfee from a trusted source, of someone he had befriended over the course of his research and investigation into the businessman's life.
The accusation and the details surrounding it are not mentioned in the documentary, but provided a turning point for Foster, who then had to fly to Barcelona for another session with McAfee. Despite being aware of previous accusations, this time felt different – with a direct line to those involved, forcing it from the periphery of 'something that might have happened' to something that, in Foster's opinion at least, almost certainly did.
Suddenly, getting somewhat kidnapped in Barcelona (which happened on that trip) by what appeared to be an organised crime ring had lost its edge, and he could finally see the world McAfee was tangling him up in. He wanted out.
"I was just thinking of the trip, thinking of the woman who was raped that I now believed, and it just came to a head. I was like, 'I can't do this anymore'," Foster says. "John freaked out, was yelling at me calling me names and saying 'you're not a writer, you're pathetic'. So I said the last thing I ever said to him, and from six months spending time with him, I knew him on a cellular level, I think I knew him better than most people, and I just I let it off. I was like, 'This is who I think you really are'.
"He never wrote back. He never responded to me, and I think because he knew it was true. That was it. We kind of fired each other."
Two years later, in October 2020, McAfee was arrested in Barcelona on tax evasion charges, something he claimed was a trumped up political move done deliberately to keep him quiet about information he knew from years of wire-tapping and hacking, and his political activism calling the US government corrupt.
He was found dead in his cell on June 23, 2021 in an apparent suicide, hours after an extradition order back to the US was put through for more tax evasion charges. However, in the years leading up to his death, McAfee had contested if he was ever found dead this way, it would be a frame job and that he would've been assassinated "like Jeffrey Epstein" if this ever came to pass. His wife Janice also released a statement, saying she'd spoken to him hours prior to his death, and they'd made arrangements to speak that evening.
A year later, Janice is still campaigning for the release of McAfee's body and the autopsy report from Spanish authorities, so she can conduct her own private investigation.
Running With The Devil ends on a bizarre claim from an ex-girlfriend stating he faked his death himself in order to start a new life. There is nothing to substantiate this.
The documentary is a ride from beginning to end, rarely glorifying the twisted world McAfee had created for himself and showing it for the dangerous life it truly was. It's also somewhat teamed with unreliable narrators – the women who loved McAfee, those who downplayed their involvement, those who want to draw a line underneath it and move on and, for conspiracy theorists, those in power who are hiding what happened.
But McAfee himself is another said narrator, considering he refused to acknowledge his children to Foster, even though he was tasked with telling his life story. For a man so intent on creating his own narrative, living every second of his life on his terms damn the consequences, it's hard to know what to truly believe, apart from the staggering footage the Vice team caught, displaying a large chunk of the madness in 4K.
So, despite the omissions, was the documentary an accurate portrayal of John McAfee?
"It's so difficult to capture the essence of such an enigmatic human being,” Foster concedes. "Five years later, I'm writing a book (The Man Who Hacked The World) that's 500 pages long, and I still haven't captured it. This film did the best job they possibly could have done to capture the essence of John McAfee, because they had so much archival footage. They had people who were with him and who knew him very well, and that's very rare in documentaries, to have like 100+ hours of archival of a man. The man was far too complex to ever be captured in a book, in a movie, in a series, in anything, because there's so many sides of it."
"So really, I guess the answer is no," he added. "But they did the best job they possibly could have, because no one and nothing could ever truly capture the essence of such a person."
Running With The Devil is available to stream now on Netflix.
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