HUMAN remains discovered last week on a mountain pass in the Pyrenees match DNA of Esther Dingley, the missing British hiker who disappeared during a solo trek last November.

The 37-year-old Oxford graduate from County Durham had been walking alone along the French-Spanish border and failed to return to meet her boyfriend Dan Colegate, who raised the alarm.

Despite extensive searches on foot and by helicopter no trace of Dingley or her belongings were found until last Friday when a pair of Spanish hikers came across a skull near a path on the border.

After seven agonising days, the organisation representing Dingley’s family released a statement confirming that the family had been told the devastating news they were dreading.

“LBT Global is saddened to announce that human remains found in the search for Esther Dingley have today been confirmed via DNA testing as being hers,” it said.

“We must stress that the investigation is still in its infancy, with just one bone currently located, and it may be some time before any further updates are released.”

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Dingley’s partner, Daniel Colegate and her mother Ria Bryant released a statement through LBT Global.

“We are distraught to report that we have received DNA confirmation that one of the bones found last week belongs to Esther.

“We have all known for many months that the chance we would get to hug our beloved Esther again, to feel her warm hand in ours, to see her beautiful smile and to watch the room light up again whenever she arrived was tiny, but with this confirmation that small hope has now faded. It is devastating beyond words.

“At this stage, with just a single bone found and no sign of equipment or clothing in the immediate area (which has been closely searched again over several days), the details of what happened and where still remain unknown

“The search and rescue teams intend to continue their search on foot and with drones, particularly trying to find some sign of Esther’s equipment to understand how this tragedy occurred.

“The family would like to express their gratitude to the officers in charge of the various police units in France and Spain, the British consulates in Bordeaux and Barcelona, and LBT Global, all of whom have remained in close contact with us for months now. Their continued support and their determination to find answers is welcome.”

Matthew Searle MBE, the Chief Executive of LBT Global, which has been set up to help families in Britain who relatives go missing while abroad, paid tribute to the determination of Colegate, who never stopped searching for her.

“This is the tragic end we have all feared. This is devastating news for Esther’s loved ones – never before have I seen such incredible determination as that showed by Daniel in his relentless physical search of the mountains. We ask that media leave the family in peace at this incredibly difficult time.”

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