10 Dec, 2020 @ 09:30
2 mins read

Hiker who vanished near Spanish border was ‘not as happy as images on social media suggest’ say police

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DETECTIVES investigating the disappearance of British hiker Esther Dingley have said her private life ‘was not as idyllic as social media suggested’. 

The 37-year-old, originally from Durhum,  has not been seen since November 22, when she went for a solo hike on the Spanish/French border. 

The fitness enthusiast,  who has spent six years touring Europe in a campervan with partner Dan Colegate, 38, was reported missing after failing to return from her journey from Port de la Glere to the Port de Venasque. 

New footage taken days before she vanished shows Esther in at a supermarket in the Spanish Pyrenees, arguing with the shopkeeper. 

In the video, taken at the Eroski store in Benasque on November 19, Esther appears to have a heated discussion over the price of chia seeds as she stocked up on provisions for her hillwalking. 

One eyewitness at the shop, a local English teacher who assisted Esther with her Spanish, said the hiker looked ‘sad and thoughtful’ at the time. 

The clip was released after French investigating officer Capitaine Bordinaro said the Esther’s home life was ‘not as idyllic as the images posted on social media suggest’. 

He said: “We want to investigate all possibilities. We do not rule any line of inquiry. 

“But it does not seem probable that Esther suffered an accident, and it is not credible that she was eaten by a bear or that she has fallen into a lake.

“We believe that her disappearance is either the result of a voluntary act, or as a result of someone else’s actions.” 

The investigation, which has seen officers go through the messages sent between Esther and her partner Colegate, revealed that their lives ‘were not as happy as the images posted on social media suggest’. 

Oxford graduate Colegate has been grilled by police three times since his girlfriend’s disappearance, but cops maintain that he has been interviewed as a witness and not a suspect.   

It is thought Esther was last seen by Spanish Olympic skier Marti Vigo del Arco and his girlfriend on November 22. 

The couple said they were on a descent at around 3pm when they met an English woman while she was still ascending, who asked the pair for a piece of fruit.

About one hour after the encounter, Esther reached the mountain top  and sent her boyfriend a selfie of her smiling from the summit. 

That was the last time anyone heard from Esther, and boyfriend Colgate reported her missing three days later when she didn’t show up at an event he was at in Gascony, southwestern France. 

Since then, Spanish and French mountain rescue teams used helicopters to repeatedly swept the area either side of the border.

But rescue efforts came to a halt searches on Friday after heavy snowfall hit the area. 

Police are still looking to speak to a mystery man who Esther accepted a lift from in the days leading up to her disappearance. 

On November 19 , she said on Facebook how bad weather had forced her to change her plans and she accepted a lift from a fellow hiker to head back down to the valley where her camper van was parked.

She wrote: ”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.

“He’d take me further up the valley so I could continue my planned tour to another refuge or back to the camper…”

The man is believed to have dropped Esther off at Benasque on the Spanish side where her van has been found by police. 

Now the vehicle has been moved and impounded by the Guardia Civil paramilitary police who are combing it for evidence after suspicions were raised that she may not have simply had an accident in the mountains.

Kirsty Mckenzie

Kirsty is a journalist who has reported on news, entertainment, food and drink, travel and features since 2015. She lives in the south of Spain.
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