The partner of a British hiker who went missing in the Pyrenees 10 weeks ago has said she would not have voluntarily disappeared.
Esther Dingley, 37, was walking solo in the mountains near the Spanish and French border while her partner Daniel Colegate was house-sitting at a French farmhouse.
She has not been seen since November 22, and Mr Colegate does not believe she fell or had some other kind of accident.
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When travel regulations and the weather allow, he will go to the Pyrenees to look over terrain already searched by specialists, but he is confident Ms Dingley’s determination would have got her down off the mountain, even if she had broken her leg.
Updating well-wishers on Facebook, Mr Colegate said: “Regarding suggestions that Esther’s disappearance was in some way voluntary, my response remains that she had neither the motive or means to do so.
“She hasn’t accessed any funds or been seen anywhere, despite widespread press coverage.
“I am of course aware of the speculation in the media regarding our relationship, stoked by quotations from both police sources and people that met Esther during her time away.
“So far I have been loath to even engage with such salacious nonsense, believing that it was nobody else’s business.
“All I will say here is that the police officers actually investigating her disappearance have full access to our communications which reflect the truth that our relationship is solid.
“Any comments to the contrary reflect a misunderstanding of that reality.”
He acknowledged they have an “unconventional lifestyle” and said they worked hard to support each other, calling it “a dance of individuality and togetherness”.
Mr Colegate denied the idea Ms Dingley would spark a major search operation by vanishing, rather than simply telling him she needed time alone.
He said: “All of which leads me to believe that somebody else has been involved in Esther’s disappearance and against her will.
“This is a terrifying prospect and I wish I could believe otherwise, but I cannot.”
The couple have been together for almost 19 years, met at Oxford University and lived in Durham before they set off travelling around Europe in a camper van six years ago.