French and Spanish police have carried out a major search for the missing British hiker Esther Dingley who disappeared in the Pyrenees in November, but failed to find any trace of her.
The 37-year-old last made contact with her partner Daniel Colegate from the top of the Pic de Sauvegarde mountain on the border between Spain and France on Nov 22, 2020.
About 30 officers from specialised search teams began to look for the missing Oxford University graduate on Thursday with the French police deploying a helicopter.
Mr Colegate, 38, who has been carrying out his own searches at the lower levels of the Pyrenees, praised the work of the police. He said he was in regular contact with the search teams and was “grateful they are continuing their searches”.
Mr Colegate has walked about 620 miles (1,000km) of the mountains in search of his partner since April.
A Spanish Civil Guard spokeswoman said about 20 officers had scoured the French side of the border, while ten Spanish officers conducted the search on the other side of the frontier.
Missing British hiker
She added: “From the aircraft they have flown over the southern slope of the Sauvegarde peak and the Collado de la Glera mountain, with some of the specialists carrying out an inspection on foot on the Spanish side of the Pic de Sacrous mountain and in the vicinity of the Tuca de Gorguts peak, but the search proved negative.
“The Civil Guard will continue with a search sporadically when the demands of the summer allow it.”
Both forces conducted extensive searches last November when Ms Dingley first went missing as she walked from the Spanish side of the Pyrenees to France to meet Mr Colegate, who was staying in a house.
Ms Dingley, who was travelling in the couple’s camper van, started her walk in the Spanish border town of Benasque on Nov 21. Her last message to Mr Colegate was in a WhatsApp video call shortly after 16.00 GMT the following day and she planned to spend the night at a mountain refuge.
Mr Colegate told police she was an experienced hiker with provisions for up to five days for her solo hike. Police have said they have considered all options including the possibility that she could have been kidnapped.
However, the Spanish Civil Guard said on Thursday their principle line of enquiry was now that Ms Dingley had suffered an accident.
The search was called off in December due to heavy snow in the mountains.
The couple, who lived in Durham, had given up their jobs in 2014 and decided to travel around Europe in a camper van.