POLICE searching for missing British hiker Esther Dingley are looking to speak to the mystery man who gave her a lift three days before she vanished in the Pyrenees.
The 37-year-old last messaged her partner Dan Colegate,38, via WhatsApp on 22 November, when she was on top of Pic de Sauvegarde on the France-Spain border.
Now a post from Esther’s social media page on November 19 may provide more clues to why she failed to return from her solo walking trip on 25 November.
She wrote that she had accepted a lift from the man back to her camper van, which was later found abandoned in the Spanish town of Benasque.
“I had the option of staying at a great cabin, even had a mattress, but it was only 2pm or going down with my fellow hiker and getting a lift,” the post read.
“He’d take me further up the valley so I could continue my planned tour to another refuge or back to the camper…”
The meeting happened just three days before Esther was last seen, and police believe the man may have answers about what happened to her.
Partner Colegate revealed earlier in the week that police in Spain and France were already looking into the possibility girlfriend Esther may have been attacked.
In a Facebook post 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.”
He added that his partner of six-years is 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 added.
“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.”