“We have nothing”: the police disconcerted by the disappearance of a Briton in the Pyrenees | World news

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Almost three weeks have passed since Esther Dingley’s disappearance in the Pyrenees, on the Franco-Spanish border, and police in both countries admit they are not close to finding her.
The frustration of the French gendarmerie captain Jean-Marc Bordinaro was palpable. “Normally, at the start of an investigation, we have something to do, but we have nothing,” he said by telephone. ” Absolutely nothing. ”

Was it possible that the British hiker had an accident in the mountains? Did she meet someone who had hurt her? Had she chosen to disappear? Bordinaro said nothing was ruled out, but so far he had no answers.

“We searched a very large area – 28 km2 in all – with specialized mountain teams, with dogs, with helicopters all the way that she said she was taking, and there was nothing. It is not a particularly difficult road and by the time it was on the mountain the weather was fine, ”he said.

“If she deviated from her route and went off-road, she could have had an accident, fallen into a crevasse, and if so…” He paused. “With snow, we might not know it until spring.”

Map: known movements of Esther Dingley

For the past six years, Dingley, 37, and his partner, Dan Colegate, 38, have been living the adventure of a lifetime traveling through Europe. The couple, who have been together for 18 years, left good jobs and their Durham home to hit the road in a motorhome after Colegate nearly died after surgery three weeks before their wedding.

They entertained their friends, family and random strangers with stories from their travels on their blog, EstherandDan.com, a Facebook page, and in books. Recently, they were joined on their journeys by five dogs.

Dingley was last seen on November 22 in the Luchonnais region of southwestern France. She had left for a month of solo trekking while Colegate stayed in the Gers in the southwest of France, housed in a farm.

“We realized that during the coronavirus, we hadn’t been apart from each other for a year, so we decided to each do our own thing for a while. It has all been really good for us individually and for our relationship; we’re really happy now, ”Dingley told the BBC a few days before his disappearance.

On November 15, Dingley wrote on the couple’s Facebook page that she was in Benasque, Spain. “This opportunity for me was the chance to go alone for some time in the mountains… Grateful that it is a very hot November and a route directly from the motorhome [van] to an incredible peak of over 2800m… Mix of hiking and running to clear the mind, ”she writes.

On November 19, Dingley said she was forced to change her plans due to bad weather and agreed to get back into her campervan by another hiker, whom police have yet to identify.

Dingley parked the van in Benasque on November 21 and planned to stay at a mountain hut on Sunday evening, but police said there was no sign she had arrived there. She contacted Colegate by WhatsApp the next day to tell him that she was on the Pic de Safeguard, a range of 2,738 meters straddling the Franco-Spanish border. It was his last known communication.

Wait a minute, the fitness fanatic who describes himself as someone who “loves to come up with crazy ideas that become our greatest adventures” posted selfies from a mountain peak amidst spectacular scenery. The next day she was gone without a trace.

Colegate, who says his partner was often out of touch while hiking, sounded the alarm three days later when an immediate search was launched.

Since then, French and Spanish police have been forced to suspend their search due to bad weather. Both say they are now considering other possibilities. In France, a judicial inquiry has been opened.

“It’s complicated because we don’t have any evidence and that means no hypothesis can be ruled out,” Bordinaro said. “We don’t know if she fell, met someone with bad intentions, or disappeared on purpose. We don’t even know if she was in France.

It’s the same story on the Spanish side. The Spanish Civil Guard told the Guardian that there had been no development but that all possibilities were being considered. “The search for the missing person is ongoing and all possibilities remain open until she is found,” a spokesperson said.

Dingley’s aunt Elizabeth Wolsey Morgan previously told the Mirror her niece was “a strong girl, and the point is, the longer it lasts, you wonder if she was kidnapped,” adding: “I feel so helpless . There is really nothing to do, nothing concrete. If she had been in an accident, they probably would have found her. It’s terrible to wait for news. I feel like I’m going through a nightmare while waiting to wake up.

Retired teacher Kim Prior, from Hilgay in Norfolk, who illustrated a set of children’s books the couple wrote about their five dogs, described Dingley as “warm and friendly.”

Before, 65, she first contacted her earlier this year and has kept in touch via email and phone. They last spoke two months ago when Dingley and Colegate were in Switzerland. “She was so full of enthusiasm. Trying to get those books out was their main goal before Christmas, ”Prior said.

Three weeks after his disappearance, Dingley’s friends and family are hoping that a phrase from his blog is prophetic. He said, “All who wander are not lost. ”

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