Project Devote arrests, later releases suspect in 2003 Nicolle Hands homicide

After announcing a break in a 16-year-old homicide on the weekend, Manitoba’s Project Devote now has no accused.

According to a release from police, a male was arrested Sunday in the 2003 fatal stabbing of Nicolle Hands.

But less than 24 hours later was released from custody, RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Julie Courchaine said Monday.

“This investigation remains very active and the family of Nicolle Hands continues to be updated on its progress,” Courchaine said in a release.

“We will release further information when it becomes available.”

The Winnipeg-based cold case task force announced March 7 it had made an arrest. It said the name of the male suspect from Winnipeg would be released once charges were laid.

A request for comment from Hand’s mother, Eleanor Hands, was not immediately returned.

(Nicolle’s mother, Eleanor Hands, lives in Kingston, Ont.  Facebook photo)

Nicolle, a member of Lac Seul First Nation in northwestern Ontario, was “fatally injured” on Oct. 2, 2003 in her apartment on Mountain Avenue in Winnipeg while her three children and a babysitter were in the next room.

She died in hospital three days later.

Project Devote said the arrest came after 18 months of investigation by the integrated Manitoba RCMP-Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) task force.

But the task force is now losing its WPS members after police Chief Danny Smyth said last week his officers would consolidate their own resources into a new unit to investigate cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Project Devote was tasked with reviewing 28 historical cases of murdered and missing vulnerable persons. It closed one case in nine years.

Hands was 32 and wanted to be a social worker.

The WPS homicide unit handled the initial investigation until it was taken over by Project Devote in 2012.

Police at the time asked for help from the public identifying a person of interest – a 30-something male known to the victim.

Anyone with information about this or any other case is asked to call the Devote tip line at 1-888-673-3316 or Manitoba Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.



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