Partner of missing British hiker says police are exploring options other than 'accident'

Jamie Johnson
·2-min read
Dan Colegate and Esther Dingley - Facebook
Dan Colegate and Esther Dingley - Facebook

The partner of a British hiker missing in the Pyrenees has said there is “no sign of her anywhere” and officials are looking at "other options beyond a mountain accident".

Dan Colegate, 38, and a number of rescue teams have spent nearly a week trying to retrace Esther Dingley’s steps on trails straddling the border between France and Spain, but he says that the "the prevailing opinion in the search teams is that she isn't there."

Police have not ruled out a disappearance in suspicious circumstances, and the investigation has now moved onto how Ms Dingley went missing.

The couple had been travelling across Europe in a camper van for six years, but Ms Dingley vanished while hiking alone from the Porte de la Glere to the Port de Venasque.

The 37-year-old last made contact on November 22 when she sent a selfie from the Pic de Sauvegarde mountain and was reported missing three days later.

Watch: New Zealand police find body of missing British hiker

Ms Dingley had been in Spain for a month while Mr Colegate remained at a farmhouse in Gascony, France, but the couple were due to be reunited last week.

On Tuesday night, in an update posted on social media, Mr Colegate said: "It's very difficult to say this, but another day has ended with no trace at all of Esther."

He said the combination of her experience, the good weather, the planned route and the intensity of the search meant that "if she had fallen from one of the paths, they really would have expected to find her."

He continued: "As things stand tonight, Esther is now listed as a national missing persons case in Spain and the case has been passed to a specialised judicial unit in France. This means they will be looking at other options beyond a mountain accident.

"While this is a terrifying development in many ways, I'm trying to focus on the fact that it leaves the door open that Esther might still come home. She was so utterly happy and joyful when we last spoke, I'd do anything to see her face and hold her right now."

On Tuesday night, Pierre Gaillard of the PGMH mountain gendarmes in Luchon said that with heavy snow closing in, the search was being scaled back.

“Now there is bad weather coming so we have to stop,” he told the Telegraph. “We had people in the area on Tuesday, and a drone, but now we have to stop because of the snow.

“We will continue when there are breaks in the weather, but we are moving into a new phase to try and find out why she disappeared."

Watch: 5 Coolest Ice Hotels in the World