Officials looking for a British hiker who went missing while walking in the Pyrenees are investigating “other options beyond a mountain accident”, her partner has said.
Esther Dingley had been travelling through Europe since 2014 with her partner, Dan Colegate, and had been expected to return from a solo trek last Wednesday.
Local police say Ms Dingley, 37, had set out to hike from Port de la Glere to the Port de Venasque – along the French and Spanish border.
Following extensive searches, which involved several teams, drones, dogs and helicopters, the “prevailing opinion” of those involved is that Ms Dingley is not in the mountains, according to a Facebook post by Mr Colegate.
Ms Dingley has been listed as an official missing person in Spain and her disappearance has been passed to “a specialised judicial unit in France”, he added.
“However, with no result day after day, taking into account Esther’s high level of experience, the nature of the terrain, the good weather she would have had, the fact she had a clearly defined route for Sunday evening and Monday, and various other factors, both search coordinators have essentially told me that although they can never be 100% sure, the prevailing opinion in the search teams is that she isn’t there,” the post said.
“That if she had fallen from one of the paths, they really would have expected to find her given the intensity, the closeness of the search and the fact most of the trails are really quite straightforward across open ground.
“As things stand tonight, Esther is now listed as a national missing persons case in Spain and the case has been passed to a specialised judicial unit in France.”
He added: “This means they will be looking at other options beyond a mountain accident.”
“While this is a terrifying development in many ways, I’m trying to focus on the fact that it leaves the door open that Esther might still come home,” he said in the post.
“She was so utterly happy and joyful when we last spoke, I’d do anything to see her face and hold her right now.”
He also said he was “very grateful” for the efforts of rescue teams in France and Spain.
A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesman said: “Our staff are supporting the family of a British woman reported missing in the Pyrenees and are in contact with the French and Spanish authorities.”
The Durham-based couple started to travel after Mr Colegate suffered from a serious health scare and have been documenting their campervan adventures online.