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Esther Dingley: Partner says police 'looking at non-accident options'

image copyrightEsther Dingley
image captionEsther Dingley sent this photo of her at the top of a mountain nine days ago

Police searching for a British hiker missing in the Pyrenees are "looking at other options" beyond an accident, her partner has said.

Esther Dingley, 37, last messaged her partner Dan Colegate via WhatsApp on 22 November, when she was on top of Pic de Sauvegarde on the France-Spain border.

She had been due to return from her solo walking trek on 25 November.

Mr Colegate said after extensive searches the "prevailing opinion" is she is not in the mountains.

In a post on Facebook, he praised the French and Spanish search and rescue teams' efforts, but said: "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 the prevailing opinion in the search teams is that she isn't there.

"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."

image copyrightDan Colegate
image captionDan Colegate and Esther Dingley had always been keen travellers

Mr Colegate said Ms Dingley is now listed as a national missing person in Spain and her case has been passed to a "specialised judicial unit in France".

"This means they will be looking at other options beyond a mountain accident," he said.

Mr Colegate said: "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."

image copyrightDan Colegate
image captionExperienced walker Esther has completed solo treks before

Ms Dingley had been travelling in the couple's camper van while Mr Colegate stayed at a farm in the Gascony area of France.

Ms Dingley had started walking from Benasque in Spain on Saturday and had planned to spend Sunday night at Refuge de Venasque in France, Mr Colegate said.

The couple had lived in Durham before deciding to pack up their lives and go travelling after Mr Colegate nearly died from an infection.

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