Esther Dingley – Human remains found in Pyrenees confirmed to be missing British hiker, charity says
HUMAN remains found in the search for Esther Dingley have been confirmed as belonging to the missing British hiker.
A charity that has been helping with the search said that DNA tests showed that one of the bones discovered in the Pyrenees belongs to Esther
Esther vanished in November last year, while climbing the 8,796ft Pico Salvaguardia in the Pyrenees.
The 37-year-old had not been seen or heard from since but remains believed to be hers were found by a mountain runner last Friday afternoon, on a path regularly used by walkers.
The remains were checked by French forensic experts against DNA samples from Esther’s mother Ria, while her dental records were checked for a match.
At the time of her disappearance, she had been travelling around Europe for six years in a camper with her partner Daniel Colegate.
Mr Colegate, and her mother, Ria Bryant, said in joint statement: “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.
'DEVASTATING BEYOND WORDS'
“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."
Speaking after the grisly discovery of what was believed to be a human skull and hair in the area last week, mountain rescue guide Patrick Lagleize said he believed it likely that Esther had lost her way and fallen to her death.
LBT Global Chief Executive Matthew Searle MBE said: “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."
The remains were found at Puerto de la Glera – Port de la Glera in France – which is close to the Pico Salvaguardia summit.
Experienced walker Esther last made contact with her partner there around 4pm on November 22 last year.
Dan Colegate said Puerto de la Glera was part of the route he had expected her to take and insisted it would have been “well within” her capabilities in a dossier he released in January through LBT Global.
Specialist officers from Spain and France had carried out several searches of the area around the hiking trail.
Mr Lagleize, President of the Pyrenean Guides Association (CGdP) told told French website LaDepeche.fr: "You can lose the way and slide on the scree (rocks and gravel).
“Logically, for Esther to have fallen that way, is unfortunately quite plausible."
The Port, or pass, is four miles long and incredibly steep; rising and falling 2,000ft to reach a maximum altitude of 7,794ft.
"For Esther to have fallen that way, is unfortunately quite plausible."
Mr Lagleize spoke of an earlier case, in which the skeleton of missing French climber Gatien Loison, 32, was found nearby in 2012, three years after his disappearance.
"When there is a disappearance in the mountains and the victim cannot be found, then it is because we cannot match them with their planned itinerary.
"It is then necessary to count on luck to find traces of the person, often several months, even several years later.
"We cannot find the victims in the mountains if we do not understand the logic of their path."
Mr Lagleize is no stranger to the hazards associated with the Port de la Glère near the French-Spanish border, where Esther was last sighted.
As a former member of the Gendarmerie's elite rescue unit, the 'High Mountain Platoon' (PGHM), Mr Port de la Glère said he was once called out to rescue a group of people who had become stranded on a rocky ridge.
In their situation, a mis-step of a few centimetres would have been extremely serious, he said.
"We had also been called for another person who had fallen. There, the outcome was much less favourable.”
Esther’s partner of 20 years, Dan Colegate, recently claimed in a recent BBC interview he “could no longer agree” with the idea she had suffered an accident.
The 38-year-old, who had been touring Europe with Esther prior to her disappearance, has spent months frantically searching for clues about what happened to his partner.
He said: “The search has been so prolonged and so intense, that as far as I’m concerned the probability of an accident is now less than the probability of a criminal act.”
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