Missing hiker may have had run-in with hunter or abductor, her partner suggests

The partner of missing hiker Esther Dingley has suggested she may have had a run-in with a hunter or someone who saw “an opportunity when encountering a lone female hiker”.

Daniel Colegate has 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 solo in the Pyrenees when she vanished 50 days ago.

French police have said the cause of her going missing likely falls under three categories: accident, voluntary disappearance, or someone else being involved.

A dossier of the case compiled by Mr Colegate and issued by the Lucie Blackman Trust (LBT) said: “Accidents can happen to anyone of course, but these paths are all well within Esther’s capabilities.

Missing hiker
Esther Dingley, 37, may have been abducted, her partner fears (LBT GLOBAL /Family/PA)

“She had successfully gone up and down the same peak the previous day. If she had found it hard, she wouldn’t have gone back alone.

“Esther is adventurous but not a gratuitous risk taker.”

Mr Colegate added that Ms Dingley is a very experienced hiker who had ample supplies with her, but no trace of her has been found.

Regarding the possibility of voluntary disappearance, the dossier said: “This is totally out of character, in every way.

“Also, Esther has no motive or means to do so. She hasn’t accessed any funds. There were no large cash withdrawals in the weeks/months leading up to her trip.

“Finally, she was already doing her own thing as part of her usual relationship with Dan. She didn’t need to vanish to get time to herself.”

It added there has been no reported sightings of her despite significant media coverage and missing person reports.

At the time, France was under national lockdown and exercise was meant to be taken within 1km of someone’s home.

The document continues: “However, that doesn’t mean that nobody could have been up there, and that somebody who was breaking the rules didn’t see an opportunity when encountering a lone female hiker.

“With the additional knowledge that nobody else should be nearby and so close to a road, an individual with a weapon could feasibly force somebody back to their vehicle.

“At the time of Esther’s disappearance it was supposed to be hunting season.

“In such a mountainous location, there is no practical way to police anybody choosing to ignore the Covid restrictions.

“This is not to say Esther was harmed by a hunter, just that the possibility of Esther encountering an individual with a weapon remains.

“Given that the intensive search found no trace of her, this is why the criminal investigation is absolutely necessary.”

Mr Colegate said his partner of 19 years is the “best person I’ve ever met”.

In a statement he said: “Since Esther went missing I have been lost in a world that no longer makes sense to me. Every aspect of my life and the future I dream of includes Esther.

“I never imagined that one day she would not come home. Many times we had discussed how we would grow old together and take slow walks reflecting on the adventures of our youth.

“The pain of her disappearance is excruciating, but even that pales into insignificance against the pain of not knowing what’s happened to her.”

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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