Tragic British hiker Esther Dingley may have been MURDERED, French investigator admits for the first time after failing to find any of her belongings near where skull fragment was discovered
- Esther Dingley went missing on November 22 while out hiking in the Pyrenees
- Last month, human remains were discovered in a mountain pass and were later confirmed to be a fragment of the 37-year-old’s skull
- Searches of the area have yet to uncover any of her numerous pieces of kit
- This may weaken the theory that she died after getting into an accident
- Christophe Amunzateguy, the French prosecutor leading the probe, said investigators were not ruling out any theories regarding cause of death
- ‘We are not closing the door to any hypothesis,’ he said
Police investigating the death of British hiker Esther Dingley have said publicly for the first time that she may have been murdered.
Christophe Amunzateguy, the French prosecutor leading the probe, said investigators are not ruling out that her death may not have been accidental.
‘The aim is to put forward a scenario to explain the disappearance of Esther Dingley,’ he told The Sun.
‘To find out what may have happened — whether it was an accidental thesis, or a criminal thesis, because we are not closing the door to any hypothesis.’
Esther went missing on November 22 while out hiking in the Pyrenees, last month, human remains were found by Spanish hikers at Port de la Glere, a mountain pass on France’s border with Spain, just south of Bagneres-de-Luchon. The trail is known as Puerto de la Glera in Spanish.
The remains were later confirmed to be a piece of Esther’s skull, however extensive subsequent searches have as yet revealed no further clues as to what happened to her.
Police investigating the death of British hiker Esther Dingley (pictured) have said publicly for the first time that she may have been murdered
The 37-year-old Oxford graduate had numerous pieces of kit with her at the time of her disappearance, including a bright red and grey rucksack and a distinctive yellow tent which are yet to be found.
The gear was made of durable, brightly coloured materials and would be expected to have remained in good condition despite months-long exposure to the elements.
‘When this clothing and kit does turn up, it is likely to answer a lot of questions — or pose some more.
‘Finding out what happened remains a priority,’ The Sun reported a spokesman for Esther’s family as saying.
Investigators initially suggested that Esther’s remains may have been moved to the well-trod trail where the bone fragment was discovered by an animal, after the hiker perhaps died in a fall.
But the fact that none of her kit has yet been uncovered may add weight to the theory that her death was not accidental.
Specialist teams in France and Spain are continuing the search for other remains and Esther’s kit in the mountainous border region.
Dingley’s boyfriend Dan Colegate (left) has expressed disbelief at the theory that Esther may have died after becoming injured during her solo hike as she was an experienced hiker who should have had no problem with the route she is believed to have taken
Last month, human remains later confirmed to be Esther’s were found by Spanish hikers at Port de la Glere, a mountain pass on France ‘s border with Spain , just south of Bagneres-de-Luchon. The trail is known as Puerto de la Glera in Spanish
Tests on the bone fragment confirmed to be part of Esther’s skull are ongoing and it is not yet clear whether the remains will offer any indication of her cause of death.
Esther’s boyfriend Dan Colegate, and her mother Ria Bryant, 74, are assisting with the investigation.
Colegate has expressed disbelief at the theory that Esther may have died after becoming injured during her solo hike as she was an experienced hiker who should have had no problem with the route she is believed to have taken.
The search for the then-missing hiker was called off in February because of deteriorating weather, but it resumed in the spring.
In her last known message, sent to Colegate on November 22, Esther wrote: ‘Might dip into France. Hoping Refuge Venasque has a winter room. Keep you posted when can. Love you xxx’
Colegate wrote a 23-page report about Esther’s plans to do a circular hike between Spain and France which involved sleeping at a mountain refuge.
He said in his dossier: ‘An individual that Esther met on November 19 came forward to say he had specifically suggested this route through France, between Port de Venasque and Port de la Glere, to Esther when he met her. There is no reason to think that Esther did not stick to this plan.’
In a section titled ‘Esther’s Planned Onward Route’, he suggested she reached the mountain refuge in France and slept there overnight before continuing a hike to return to her initial starting point in Spain.
He said: ‘Her onward route would have involved a descent northwards towards the Hospice de France, a flat traverse westwards around the Imperatrice Way, and a climb southwards to the border at Port de la Glere. From the border the route descends back towards Hospital de Benasque.
‘This route would have been well within Esther’s capabilities for a day hike, in addition to the fact she had a tent, camping equipment and significant experience using it.
‘Distance was 16km with 1100 metres of ascent, five to seven hours of hiking time. The weather remained excellent that Monday. The route is very obvious on the ground and also from the terrain when starting from Refuge de Venasque.
‘It’s basically impossible to get lost in good visibility here. The entire route is a well-made and easy to follow path. Although Esther believed and had warned family that there was poor signal in the area, in fact the signal is very good on the French side.
‘Within half an hour of leaving the refuge, Esther should have been able to use her phone for most of the rest of the day.’
The couple, both Oxford graduates, had been travelling around Europe in a camper van for years after quitting their careers and Durham home.
The couple, both Oxford graduates, had been travelling around Europe in a camper van for years after quitting their careers and Durham home
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