The boyfriend of missing British hiker Esther Dingley has dismissed French police claims that she may have deliberately disappeared because she feared her nomadic lifestyle was about to end.
A spokesman for Daniel Colegate said ‘there is no indication Esther was seeking a new life’ as new CCTV footage emerged of his girlfriend in a supermarket before she vanished.
Ms Dingley, 37, was last seen three weeks ago on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees after setting off on a solo hike.
Despite a joint operation by French and Spanish police, there are no clues to her whereabouts and heavy snowfall has led to mountain searches being called off.
The boyfriend of missing British hiker Esther Dingley (pictured) has dismissed French police claims that she may have deliberately disappeared because she feared her nomadic lifestyle was about to end
A spokesman for Daniel Colegate (pictured with Esther) said ‘there is no indication Esther was seeking a new life’
This weekend, gendarmerie captain Jean-Marc Bordinaro, who is leading the French side of the investigation, said one theory was that the experienced hiker had deliberately gone missing.
He claimed Mr Colegate had wanted to return to the UK after tiring of their six-year European camper van trip.
Cpt Bordinaro said: ‘Esther Dingley wanted to continue her current way of life, journeys in a camper van and sporting activities including hiking, while Daniel Colegate seems a little tired of his nomadic life.
‘Did she want to go off on her own to live her life and organise her own disappearance? There is nothing enabling us to eliminate this working theory. This situation provoked some tensions within the couple, but nothing too much.’
But the theory was dismissed by Mr Colegate, 38, and Ms Dingley’s family, who spoke through the Lucie Blackman Trust Global, a charity that helps families of those missing abroad.
Grainy CCTV footage (pictured) – the last recorded movements of Ms Dingley – shows her apparently querying the price of the seeds with the store manager
Matthew Searle, the chief executive of LBT Global said: ‘We are working closely with the family and Daniel and there is no indication that Esther was seeking a new life. There is much speculation on this case and this is unhelpful and unfair to the family.’
Mr Colegate has been interviewed three times by French and Spanish police but is not considered a suspect. Ms Dingley left Mr Colegate in the French town of Gascony where he was house-sitting. On November 15, she drove the couple’s camper van across the border to the Spanish town of Benasque, where she left the vehicle to climb the mountain range.
The police investigation is now focused on Benasque and the camper van has been forensically searched.
Ms Dingley, an Oxford graduate like her boyfriend, stayed at the Angel Orus hostel on November 17, where the owner recalled seeing her in ‘good spirits’.
Two days later, she was seen buying chia seeds at a supermarket. Grainy CCTV footage – the last recorded movements of Ms Dingley – shows her apparently querying the price of the seeds with the store manager.
This weekend, gendarmerie captain Jean-Marc Bordinaro, who is leading the French side of the investigation, said one theory was that the experienced hiker had deliberately gone missing. But the theory was dismissed by Mr Colegate, 38, (pictured with Esther) and Ms Dingley’s family
A British teacher then stepped in to act as a translator and explained that discounts were only available to people with store loyalty cards. Ms Dingley bought the seeds and a shopper later described her as looking ‘sad and thoughtful’.
The last contact Ms Dingley made with her partner was on November 22, when she sent photos of herself at the Pic de Sauvegarde mountain, 9,000ft above sea level. She was supposed to return to Gascony by November 25.
When she failed to show up, Mr Colegate raised the alarm.
Air and land searches have found no trace of Ms Dingley, and her family fear she may have been kidnapped. Because of the weather, the rescue effort may not resume until the spring.
Cpt Bordinaro said he did not believe Ms Dingley suffered an accident, was eaten by a bear or had fallen into a lake.
Ms Dingley and Mr Colegate began their travels around Europe in 2014 after he nearly died from a flesh-eating bacterial infection.
Despite the couple regularly blogging about their adventures, Cpt Bordinaro suggested their lives were not as ‘idyllic as the images posted on social media suggest’.