Police 'looking at non-accident options' in case of missing British hiker

1 December 2020, 23:35

Esther Dingley was expected to return from a solo hike on Wednesday 25 November
Esther Dingley was expected to return from a solo hike on Wednesday 25 November. Picture: Facebook
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Spanish police are considering options "beyond a mountain accident" in the case of British hiker Esther Dingley who went missing in the Pyrenees.

Esther Dingley, 37, and her partner Dan Colegate began travelling throughout Europe in 2014 after Mr Colegate had a serious health scare.

Ms Dingley, who had been documenting her adventures with her partner online, was expected to return from a solo trek on Wednesday 25 November.

Local police said she set out to hike from Port de la Gléré to Port de Venasque, a journey which follows the border between France and Spain.

She last messaged her partner via WhatsApp on 22 November when she was on top of Pic de Sauvegarde at the border.

Following extensive searches, the "prevailing opinion" of the authorities is that Ms Dingley is not in the mountains, Mr Colegate wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday evening.

The experienced hiker is now listed as a national missing person in Spain and her case has been passed to "a specialised judicial unit in France", he added.

It's very difficult to say this, but another day has ended with no trace at all of Esther. I did have a big long update...

Posted by Esther & Dan on Tuesday, December 1, 2020

"For several days now there has been talk that perhaps Esther might not be up there and that this was the reason they couldn't find her," he wrote.

"However, with no result day after day, taking into account Esther's high level of experience, the nature of the terrain, the good weather she would have had, the fact she had a clearly defined route for Sunday evening and Monday, and various other factors, both search coordinators have essentially told me that although they can never be 100% sure, the prevailing opinion in the search teams is that she isn't there.

"That if she had fallen from one of the paths, they really would have expected to find her given the intensity, the closeness of the search and the fact most of the trails are really quite straightforward across open ground.

"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."

He added: "This means they will be looking at other options beyond a mountain accident."

I'm broken. Shattered to report that my beloved Esther, the person who taught me how to feel, is missing. She has was...

Posted by Esther & Dan on Saturday, November 28, 2020

Mr Colegate said he was "very grateful" for the extensive efforts of both the Spanish and French authorities, which had utilised helicopters, dogs and a drone in six search and rescue teams.

"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," he said in the post.

"She was so utterly happy and joyful when we last spoke, I'd do anything to see her face and hold her right now."

The couple, from Durham, began travelling together six years ago following Mr Colegate's health scare and had been documenting their campervan adventures on a Facebook page called Esther & Dan.

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesman said: "Our staff are supporting the family of a British woman reported missing in the Pyrenees and are in contact with the French and Spanish authorities."