A Manitoba police effort to solve the cases of missing and slain women will begin investigating some of those incidents in depth, authorities announced Friday.

For nearly two years, a task force of nine RCMP members, forensic analysts and Winnipeg Police Service officers has reviewed 84 cases, dating back as far as 1926, of women who disappeared or whose bodies were found.


Cherisse Houle's body was found July 1, 2009, in a creek outside Winnipeg. ((Photo courtesy Houle family))

Cases where foul play is suspected are now being turned over to a new inter-force initiative called Project Devote, which will prioritize those that have the greatest chance of being solved, the Mounties said.

"We had new eyes look at it and say, 'Here's another investigative step you could take,' " RCMP assistant commissioner Bill Robinson said.

Robinson didn't say how many of the 84 files will continue to be investigated as possible crimes.

The original task force on missing and slain women emerged out of growing public concern over the number of women vanishing from Manitoba streets. Advocates and family members said far too many aboriginal woman — 75 between 1990 and 2009 — have gone missing or been killed in Manitoba without anyone being held responsible.

One of the high-profile cases was that of Cherisse Houle, 17, whose body was discovered in July 2009 dumped in an area just outside Winnipeg. The year prior, Claudette Osborne went missing. She was 21 at the time.

"It just gives you a new sense of hope that you know it's a fresh set of eyes," Bernadette Smith, Osborne's sister, said Friday. "They've thoroughly reviewed these cases. Now they're taking it to the next level."