The taxi driver convicted of killing 10 school children in the “Black August” disaster will be a free man in three weeks.
Jacob Humphreys will be released on parole on December 9, just in time for Christmas, the Department of Correctional Services confirmed yesterday.
The 61-year-old served four years in Paardeberg prison in Paarl.
But while the department says his parole was not opposed, families of his little victims say they were shocked to learn of his imminent release.
Humphreys was convicted after he crashed into a train at the Buttskop Level crossing in Eersteriver when he drove through a closed boom in 2010.
The little victims were Liesl Augis, 11, Jody Phillips, 13, Reece Smith, 7, Nolan February, 13, Michaelin de Koker, 11, Jason Pedro, 14, Nadine Marthinissen, 16, Jean-Pierre Willeman, 13, Cody Erasmus, 15, and Jade Adams, 10.
Humphreys was convicted in 2011 on 10 counts of murder and four of attempted murder, and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
After he appealed the conviction, the Supreme Court of Appeal changed the charges to culpable homicide and his sentence was reduced to eight years.
Correctional Services spokesperson Carla Williams on Thursday said Humphreys’ release was not opposed by anyone when he met with the parole board on November 9.
“The Correctional Supervision and Parole Board (CSPB) was in regular contact with the victims’ (families),” she says.
“Only one of the victims indicated that they wanted to be part of the CSPB sitting and an opportunity was granted to give written inputs in the parole hearing but nothing was received to date.
“The community was consulted via the Community Police Forum and they indicated that they do not have a problem with his release.
“The inmate’s minimum detention period was in May 2015,” she adds.
However, Jody’s mother, Valerie, insists she was not properly consulted by the department.
“They came to us with letters (on Wednesday) after they already decided to release him,” she says.
“We already gave the department statements early in the year and I told them nothing is going to bring my child back. All the parents handed in statements – they are lying!”
“They only called one parent last week to let her know he was going to be released and she called me.
“(Yesterday) all the other parents called me saying they heard he was coming out but the department didn’t call us themselves.
“It’s going to be a good Christmas for them (the Humphreys family), but another bad one for us.”
But mom Ingrid Augis says she supports Humphreys’ release.
“I pray that the community will leave him in peace when he comes out,” she says.
“He is not a murderer, he caused an accident. I forgave him but I feel sorry for him.
“He will forever live with the death of our children on his conscience and that is worse than any prison sentence.”
Humphreys’ family did not want to comment.