Search for missing backpacker Esther Dingley may not resume until July

Search for missing backpacker Esther Dingley, 37, who vanished in Pyrenees may not resume for up to FIVE MONTHS due to fears over weather conditions

  •  Durham backpacker Esther Dingley, 37, has not been seen since 22 November
  •  The Pyrenees hiker last made contact with her boyfriend from Pico Salvaguardia
  •  At nearly 9,000ft above sea level, the area may not thaw out until the summer 
  •  Esther’s boyfriend Dan Colegate insisted she had disappeared ‘against her will’

The search for missing Brit hiker Esther Dingley may not resume around the peak where she was last seen until July, according to police.

The mountain rescue experts involved in last year’s operation to find her have admitted they have no plans to restart the search until April.

But they say the relaunch could be nearly five months away if there is heavy snow and temperatures stay low over the next few weeks.

The search for missing British backpacker Esther Dingley may not resume until the summer because of weather conditions, experts warned this week

Sergeant Jorge Lopez Ramos, head of the Civil Guard GREIM mountain rescue team in Benasque where hiker Esther based herself before her disappearance on 22 November, said: ‘We’d hope to resume the search in April or May, but it could be July before it happens depending on the weather in the coming weeks.

‘It won’t be before April, but the timeframe we’re working with is April to July.

‘The peak where we know Esther last made contact with her partner from is nearly 9,000ft above sea level so it will be a while before the snow there thaws and we can see what’s underneath it.

The area where Esther last made contact with her boyfriend, Dan Colegate, is 9,000ft above sea level and therefore rescuers will need to wait longer until the snow thaws

‘And at the moment there’s a risk of avalanches which makes it dangerous.

‘The snowfall this year so far has been normal, but there’s no telling what’s going to happen from now on.

‘We really are at the mercy of the weather.’

Esther pictured with her boyfriend Dan Colegate, who she last spoke to on 22 November 2020

He added: ‘We’ve had no more information pointing to any last-minute changes of route Esther might have made.

‘The area around Pico Salvaguardia where we understand she last made contact with her boyfriend on 22 November is therefore going to be the focus of our search when it is resumed.

‘It’s probably not going to be as intensive as it was in the week after she was reported missing.

Grainy CCTV footage (pictured) – the last recorded movements of Ms Dingley – showed her apparently querying the price of seeds with the store manager

‘But hopefully we’ll be able to incorporate aerial resources to complement what we do on the ground.’

The mountain search for Durham-born travel blogger Esther, who told boyfriend Dan Colegate she was planning to spend the night at a mountain refuge across the border in France, was called off at the start of December because of heavy snowfall.

Mr Lopez Ramos admitted at the time to a ‘bitter taste in his mouth’ because the chances of finding Esther alive were minimal.

Police forces in Spain and France leading a separate probe to try to establish if the Oxford Uni graduate was the victim of a crime are thought to have made no headway.

Esther’s boyfriend insisted in a Facebook post earlier this week he did not think she had suffered an accident in the mountains.

He also ruled out a voluntary disappearance, rubbishing claims they were having the relationship difficulties a witness who spent time with Esther before she vanished told police about.

French police have dismissed the possibility that a third party may have been involved in her disappearance. Pictured: A map showing the likely route she was taking

Former business development manager Dan, 38, said: ‘I believe somebody else has been involved in Esther’s disappearance and against her will.

‘This is a terrifying prospect and I wish I could believe otherwise, but I can’t.’   

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