By Poppy Askham
Former Durham student Esther Dingley, who went missing whilst trekking in the Pyrenes on 22nd November 2020, was taken “against her will” according to her partner Dan Colgate. Mr Colegate expressed his belief that “somebody else has been involved in Esther’s disappearance” In a statement on social media on 2nd February.
Ms Dingley, 37, set out on a solo trek from Benasque, Spain, on Saturday 21st November and had intended to spend Sunday night at Refuge de Venasque, an unstaffed shelter in France. She was last seen via WhatsApp video call just after 4pm on 22nd at the peak of Pic de Sauvegarde and it is unknown whether she reached the shelter.
As of February 2nd, no sign had been found of Ms Dingley despite extensive searches of the area surrounding her route. Both French and Spanish police have launched criminal investigations.
Her partner, Mr Colegate, also a Durham postgraduate alumnus, described her as “a happy, experienced, well-equipped and fit young woman went missing in an area with clear paths and mostly open terrain”, leading him to suspect foul play.
Ms Dingley, who graduated from Durham University in 2009 with a Masters degree in Research Methodology, had recently completed a 1000-mile hike through the Alps with her partner and had previously trekked solo for 27-days in the French Pyrenees.
Given her extensive experience and knowledge of safety precautions in the event of an accident, and the intensity of search operations, Mr Colegate believes that she would have been found already if she had been injured.
French police have previously claimed that there were “tensions” in Ms Dingley and Mr Colgate’s relationship and that she may have gone missing voluntarily. But Mr Coleman has refuted these claims as “salacious nonsense” and firmly disputed the theory that Ms Dingley disappeared of her own volition.
Ms Dingley had previously witnessed search operations, and Mr Coleman explained that “the idea she would trigger that and put others at risk to get some time alone rather than simply say “I need some time alone, is ridiculous to me”.
The couple were set to celebrate their nineteen-year anniversary this month. The couple lived in Durham together until 2014 when following severe health scares they set out to travel around Europe. They documented their six-year ‘van-life’ travel experience on their blog, Esther and Dan, gaining much media attention.
“For almost 2 decades now we have shared almost everything, building a life together that was occasionally challenging but mostly full of joy and love”, Mr Coleman said. “Without Esther, I cannot imagine my life ever having meaning again”.
Mr Coleman thanked the public for their support and issued a plea for information: “If anybody has any information about Esther, no matter how trivial it might seem, please contact: LBT Global Hotline: +44 (0) 800 098 8485”.
Image: Daily Mirror