London, United Kingdom:
The partner of a British hiker who went missing in the French Pyrenees last November has found her body, her family said Tuesday, adding that an accident was “the most likely hypothesis”.
Esther Dingley, 37, had been walking on her own in the mountain range, which straddles the border between France and Spain, but had not been heard from since sending a WhatsApp message on November 22.
Her partner Daniel Colegate, who raised the alarm over her whereabouts, found her body on Monday following a “relentless search”, according to a family statement released by charity LBT Global.
Colegate found Dingley’s body and equipment close to where a bone was found by a mountain runner two weeks ago. A DNA test on the bone confirmed last month that it belonged to the hiker.
“At this stage an accident is the most likely hypothesis, given the location and other early indications,” the statement said.
“A full investigation is under way to confirm the details.”
Her family said they “remain incredibly grateful for the efforts of the police units involved and their commitment to understanding the exact circumstances of Esther’s death”.
Dingley had planned to make a loop around the Salvaguardia peak, which stands at 2,738 metres (8,982 feet) above sea level, between Spain and where her vehicle was parked, according to investigators.
The BBC reported she and Colegate, who were partners for 20 years, had travelled around Europe in a camper van after leaving northeast England in 2014.
Colegate was house-sitting at a Gascony vineyard while his girlfriend took their motor home on the journey to Spain.