Search for Esther Dingley: Spanish police say it's 'impossible'

Search for missing British hiker Esther Dingley is ‘impossible’ say Spanish police as rescuers all but give up due to vicious snow storms in the Pyrenees where she was last seen

  • Esther Dingley, 37, went missing nearly two weeks ago while hiking alone  
  • Spanish Civil Guard suspended the search for her because of poor weather 
  • They said conditions in the Spanish Pyrenees mountains make it ‘impossible’
  • Investigators have confirmed they believe her disappearance is either the result of ‘voluntary act, or as a result of someone else’s actions’ 

Searching for the missing British hiker Esther Dingley is ‘impossible’ Spanish police have said, as rescuers all by give up due to vicious snow storms blocking the mountain trails in the Pyrenees where she was last seen.

Spain’s Guardia Civil’s Mountain Rescue brigade in Benasque abandoned their hunt for the 37-year-old Briton on Friday ahead of blizzards and sub-zero temperatures.

The conditions continue to batter the picturesque resort and surrounding national park she ventured into.

Sergeant Jorge Lopez, head of the Mountain Rescue brigade, said the arctic weather conditions made any further expedition up the mountains ‘useless’.

Esther Dingley, 37, was hiking the Pyrenees mountains on the border between France and Spain when she vanished, prompting a search and rescue operation that has since been suspended due to the weather. Spanish police have said searching for her is now ‘impossible’

Pictured: Ms Dingley with her partner Daniel Colegate, who has been interviewed by police three times over her disappearance, who say he is being spoken to as a witness, not a suspect

New twist A dog walker took this picture (above) of missing British hiker Esther Dingley’s campervan  with its light on and someone sleeping in the back parked in Benasque, Spain, on December 2 – ten days after she vanished

He told MailOnline: ‘There has been heavy snow last night which makes a new search today impossible.

‘It’s useless to search in a place with more than half a metre of snow.

‘A great effort has been made in the search for Esther but without result.

‘If weather conditions improve then we may carry out our normal tactical training in the Benasque area so that it doubles as a search.

‘But there is little chance of that happening at the moment.’

Esther was last seen by fellow hikers heading for the Salvaguardia peak on 22 November.

She sent partner Daniel Colegate a selfie-picture of herself at the top.

The 37-year-old fitness instructor intended to spend the night at a nearby refuge and descend the mountains into France over the following days but she never arrived.

Trails leading up the mountains are now covered with thick snow.

Animal tracks – arctic hare, wild-goat, lynx and possibly bear – are the only sign of life.

The Guardia Civil say they are ‘considering all options’ for Esther’s disappearance.

But Sergeant Lopez said it was ‘most probable’ that she had suffered an accident in the mountains.

He said: ‘When someone is lost in the mountains, the first hypothesis is always that they are in the mountains.’

The conditions continue to batter the picturesque resort and surrounding national park she ventured into (pictured) making the search for her ‘useless’ according to Spanish authorities


Sergeant Jorge Lopez, head of the Mountain Rescue brigade, said the arctic weather conditions made any further expedition up the mountains ‘useless’. He told MailOnline: ‘There has been heavy snow last night which makes a new search today impossible. Sergeant Lopez said it was ‘most probable’ that she had suffered an accident in the mountains

However the Guardia Civil has dismissed a possible sighting of Esther asleep in her camper van in Benasque ten days after she vanished.

A dog walker raised the alarm when she spotted a figure asleep at the back of the British-registered caravan car in a car park at 10pm on 2 December.

The local woman called Lucia described to MailOnline how she saw a person with light brown hair lying down, not moving around or waving their hands.

But she claims she was fobbed off by the Guardia Civil who failed to send anyone to investigate.

A Guardia Civil spokeswoman told MailOnline the figure inside the camping car was a plain-clothed forensic officer – working at 10pm without protective clothing and driving an unmarked vehicle.

The Spanish authorities appear to be at odds with their French counterparts, who are taking part in the binational search operation.

French Gendarme Captain Jean-Marc Bordinaro says it is ‘not probable’ that Esther suffered an accident and her disappearance is ‘either the result of a voluntary act or as the result of someone else’s actions’.

He added that Esther and Daniel’s lives ‘were not as happy as the images posted on social media suggest’.


 Left: Esther Dingley with her partner Daniel Colegate. Miss Dingley was a yoga enthusiast who had been a private trainer before giving up her career to travel around Europe

Esther stayed at his 7,000ft Angel Orus Refuge (pictured) on November 17, and seemed ‘in very good spirits’

His comments came after officials interviewed Ms Dingley’s partner for a third time about her disappearance.

Four officers from the French Gendarmerie paramilitary force spoke to Colegate at the farmhouse in Gascony that he is house-sitting on Monday afternoon.

Mr Colegate, 38, had stayed at the £1000-a-week holiday let while long-term partner Esther embarked on a solo hike trip in the Pyrenees mountains last month.

Bordinaro maintained that Mr Colegate had been interviewed as a witness, not a suspect, telling MailOnline: ‘We interviewed Daniel Colegate at the farmhouse where he is living in the Gers department on Monday.

‘We want to investigate all possibilities. We do not rule any line of inquiry.

‘But it does not seem probable that Esther suffered an accident, and it is not credible that she was eaten by a bear or that she has fallen into a lake.

‘We believe that her disappearance is either the result of a voluntary act, or as a result of someone else’s actions.

The Oxford graduate parked the Fiat camper in a car park in the Spanish town of Benasque on November 15 before setting off on her solo trek around the Pyrenees

Dan Colegate, the British partner of missing hiker Esther Dingley, was searching for her alone in the Pyrenees earlier this week. Pictured: A map showing the likely route she was taking

‘We went to see Mr Colegate so that we could go through social media with him – messages, etc.

‘It appears that their lives together were not as happy as the images posted on social media suggest.

‘However I would like to stress that we interviewed Mr Colegate as a witness not as a suspect.’

The Oxford graduate was interviewed by the French Gendarmes and the Spanish Guardia Civil last week about Esther’s disappearance.   

CCTV video released earlier this week showed Miss Dingley in a supermarket in the Pyrenees, where a shopper who saw her described her as looking ‘sad and thoughtful’.

Pictured: Esther Dingley is seen at Eroski supermarket in Benasque, Spain on November 19, days before her disappearance. The video shows Ms Dingley appearing ‘sad and thoughtful’ as she wandered around the supermarket

The fitness enthusiast challenged staff at the Eroski store in Benasque over the price of a packet of chia seeds as she provisioned for her march over the mountains on Thursday 19th November. 

A local English teacher could be seen coming to her rescue as Esther fails to understand the manager’s explanation over discrepancy in the cost of her shopping – as she could not understand Spanish.

In the supermarket, the Chia seeds had been marked at a discount which only applied to shoppers in possession of a store loyalty card, Maria-Carmen – the teacher who helped Ms Dingley in the shop – explained.

Maria-Carmen told MailOnline: ‘Esther wanted to buy a packet of Chia seeds which were discounted. But you only get the discount if you have the Eroski loyalty card.

‘The girl at the till tried to explain this to her but she not understand because she did not speak Spanish.

‘So the girl called me and I came to explain this to her.

‘She said that didn’t matter and bought the seeds any way.

‘We didn’t have a long chat because I was on my way to work but she seemed a sad, thoughtful.’

Maria-Carmen explained: ‘I saw her a couple of days later doing yoga in the street by her camper van.

‘It is not a usual sight to see someone doing yoga in the street in Benasque so I noticed it.

‘Later I heard that the English woman, Esther, had gone missing and I contacted the police and told them that I had helped her. 

‘I just hope she is ok.’

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