Esther Dingley’s skull may have been moved by animals as family has ‘many questions’


Esther Dingley’s partner Dan Colegate and mum Ria Bryant said they were “devastated beyond words” after a skull found in the Pyrenees on Friday was confirmed to be the missing Brit hiker

Missing British adventurer Esther Dingley whose remains were found found in the Pyrenees
Tragic Esther Dingley’s loved-ones are desperately seeking answers over her death

Detectives probing the death of Brit hiker Esther Dingley have said they cannot rule out foul play after her skull was found in the Pyrenees.

The adventurer’s partner Dan Cole­gate and mum Ria Bryant are said to have “many questions” after DNA tests this week showed the skull belonged to Esther.

The 37-year-old disappeared on a solo mountain trek eight months ago. Her kit and the rest of her remains have still not been found.

Drones and foot patrols scoured the area on Saturday for clues. A police source said they are still working on the theory that Esther died by accident.

But they stressed foul play has not been dismissed.

Esther with her boyfriend Dan Colegate

They have yet to find Esther’s yellow tent and her red and grey backpack.

The source said: “The enquiry is ongoing. There are still many questions to be answered and that is why mountain searches are continuing.”

The couple, from Durham, had travelled for six years in a camper van. Dan, 38, and Ria said in a joint statement learning the remains were Esther’s had been “devastating beyond words”.

Missing persons charity LBT Global is supporting them as they attempt to understand what happened. Boss Matt Searle said: “While this brings an end to hopes Esther would be found alive, it leaves many questions unanswered.

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“We will be supporting Dan, Ria and the rest of Esther’s loved ones and will do all we can to ensure as much as possible is known about her final moments.

“It would be wrong to speculate with such scant information to hand.”

Esther’s aunt, Elizabeth Wolsey Morgan, 68 – sister of the backpacker’s dad – said: “I’m devastated to lose such a truly special ­person. My son and daughter are distraught.”

Police believe wild animals may have found the skull in a gully and carried it to the spot near the French mountain pass of Port de la Gléré, where it was found by hikers.

Brown bears and wolves are known to roam freely in the area.

Col Xavier Wargnier, a senior French officer on the search, said: “This is the most plausible hypothesis.”

He said the skull, found at an altitude above 7,000ft, could also have been dislodged by melting snow in the spring thaw.

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Esther’s close friend, British expat Christine Millership, 67, said: “Maybe we will never know how [she died].

“At least I know she’s not suffering. Her family can find some closure.”

Christine said of Dan’s refusal to stop searching: “Now they have something tangible. That’s all down to Dan.”