Authorities searching for a British woman who went missing while hiking in the Pyrenees are looking at “other options beyond a mountain accident”, her partner has said.
Esther Dingley and Dan Colegate, from Durham, had been travelling throughout Europe since 2014 and she had been expected to return from a solo trek on Wednesday.
The 37-year-old set out to hike from the Port de la Glere to the Port de Venasque, a trek which follows the border between France and Spain, according to local police, but has not been seen since.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday evening, Colegate said that the “prevailing opinion” of authorities was that Dingley was not in the mountains following extensive searches.
She is now listed as a national missing person in Spain and her case has been passed to “a specialised judicial unit in France”, Colegate added.
“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.”
Colegate said he was “very grateful” for the extensive efforts of rescue teams in Spain and France, which had utilised helicopters, dogs and a drone.
“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 started to travel after Colegate had a serious health scare and had been documenting their camper van adventures online.
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.”