Partner of missing hiker dismisses ‘new life’ theory

PA

The partner of missing hiker Esther Dingley has dismissed a police theory that she deliberately vanished in search of a new life.

Daniel Colegate said that he spoke to the 37-year-old every day and that her walk on November 22, when she was last seen, was to be her final excursion before returning home.

The Oxford graduate was walking in the Pyrenees when she went missing last month.

In a statement issued through the Lucie Blackman Trust (LBT), Mr Colegate said: “We were missing each other. The hike she went missing on was to be her last hike before driving back.

“Our last conversation was totally loving and all smiles. She was so happy, and we were excited to see each other.”

Miss Dingley’s mother Ria stressed that it was highly unusual for her daughter not to get in touch for this long, and said her family are “utterly distraught”.

She said: “It is utterly out of character for her to be out of contact for this length of time and we are missing her desperately.

“Esther values family above everything and on all her trips we are always in regular contact, sharing the day to day small details of life.

“We communicated several times every day.”

The Times reported that French police could not discount one theory that she had gone off in search of a new life.

But Mr Colegate said: “This summer we did a 1000-mile hike together and we always planned to spend 2 weeks doing our own thing afterwards, because we knew it was good for us as individuals and for our relationship.

“We had just spent 80 days in the wilderness with just each other for company. I wanted to relax in a house due to my health issues, Esther wanted to take advantage of the mild autumn and do some more outdoor things.

“That was why she went touring solo; it was pre-planned and agreed upon. It was a non-event for us. We had done it before.”

Esther Dingley
Esther Dingley

As an experienced hiker, he believes it is unlikely that his partner of 19 years met with an accident.

He said: “The terrain she was on is not difficult. The weather was excellent. It does not mean she hasn’t had an accident; I just consider it unlikely.

“Reference to falling into the lakes, which was a story for a day, is also possible, but also highly unlikely. The paths near the lakes are wide and easy. You do not just fall ten metres sideways into a lake.

“The situation on the ground is that the conditions were perfect, Esther had all the equipment to look after herself, and from the peak we last spoke on, she could be at a road in either France or Spain within 90 minutes to 2 hours.

“She was not lost in the Amazon rainforest. These are trails that families walk in summer.”

LBT said that anyone with information can pass details anonymously to the charity, so they can be given to the police.

The LBT Global Hotline is on +44 (0) 800 098 8485, or the charity can be contacted on WhatsApp on +44 (0) 7545 826 497 or by email delta.ops@lbt.global.

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