The missing backpacker Esther Dingley who vanished in the Pyrenees last year had been ‘taking a break’ in her relationship at the time of her disappearance, according to a witness.
Ms Dingley, 37, an Oxford graduate, was last seen on November 22 as she made her way to the summit of the Pic de Sauveguard mountain, which straddles Spain and France.
The last communication from Ms Dingley was a selfie she had sent to her partner of 19 years Dan Colegate, from the top of the mountain.
Esther Dingley (pictured with her partner Daniel Colegate) disappeared on November 22 while solo hiking in the Pryanees mountains
Hiker Laura Adomaitye, 27, who lives in Spain and met Ms Dingley at a shelter just days before her disappearance, was asked to share details about the hikers ‘physical and emotional shape’ to the authorities.
She said: ‘They wanted to know my opinion on how well prepared Esther had been in terms of equipment, plus her physical and emotional shape. I told them what she said to me about their relationship.
‘Esther said she and Dan were taking a break and she didn’t know if they were going to get back together.
‘When you are not 100 per cent OK with your partner, you’re not going to be totally balanced emotionally.’
It comes as the British Police were called in to help with the probe into the hiker’s disappearance this month.
Earlier this month, Mr Colegate rubbished claims that his partner was unhappy in their relationship, and revealed their final loving texts.
Mr Colegate said when he had walked the trail she is believed to have gone missing on in November, he came across hunters – sparking the fear that she may have come across an armed stranger, and bundled into a car.
He told The Daily Mirror: ‘The fact no trace was found – and given the specifics of the weather, terrain and location – I lean towards somebody else being involved, even though that raises its own questions.’
Mr Colegate also revealed the couple’s final loving texts. One – sent by Ms Dingley – said: ‘I’m on a col/peak so can’t stop for too long. Can’t wait to read all your messages. Love you very much XXX having a really good time.’
Ms Dingley continued to keep her partner updated on her hike, saying in a later text she ‘might dip into France’ after heading for the Port de la Glere mountain pass.
The last communication from Ms Dingley was a selfie she had sent to her partner (pictured together) from the top of the mountain
The hiker parked her Fiat camper in a car park in the Spanish town of Benasque on November 15 before setting off on her solo trek around the Pyrenees
The final time the couple spoke was via a video call. ‘We were both very happy to see each other so happy. We were also excited we’d be together again in a few days,’ Mr Colegate said.
Mr Colegate dismissed the theory that that his partner could have ‘voluntarily disappeared’ because she was unhappy in their relationship.
This theory was put forward by French Captain Jean-Marc Bordinaro in December, who has been leading the investigation into Ms Dingley. He told The Times that officers were unable to dismiss ‘the theory of a voluntary disappearance’.
‘Esther Dingley wanted to continue with her current way of life, journeys in a camper van and sporting activities including hiking, whilst Daniel Colegate seems a little tired of this nomadic life,’ he told the newspaper in December.
‘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.’
Mr Colegate also dismissed questions over the state of his partner’s mental health, saying she had not suffered depression for almost a decade, and that she was incredibly physically fit – noting they had completed an 80-day, 1,000 mile hike that year.
The most likely areas for Ms Dingley to have fallen have been covered by helicopters and searchers with high-powered telescopes, which Mr Colegate says shows that if she had an accident, the chances are she would have been found.
He is reassured by the authorities’ efforts to find his girlfriend, however, saying that ‘It’s clear that finding her means a lot to them too.’
French police, meanwhile, have dismissed the possibility that a third party may have been involved in her disappearance, saying an accident is the ‘favoured line of enquiry’ in their investigation.
Ms Dingley, who stayed at this 7,000ft Angel Orus Refuge (pictured) on November 17, had reached the peak of the mountain when she took the selfie
This month Ms Dingley’s partner made a fresh plea for answers to the mystery surrounding her whereabouts, saying her disappearance had plagued him with nightmares, and said she could have had a run in with a hunter.
He that since his girlfriend disappeared, he has been ‘lost in a world that no longer makes sense to me.’
He told The Mirror: ‘The pain of her disappearance is excruciating – but even that pales into insignificance against the pain of not knowing.
‘It’s crippling. The nightmares, the constant questioning, the helplessness. Every aspect of my life and the future I dream of includes Esther.’
Since Ms Dingley’s disappearance, Mr Colegate has worked with British charity LBT Global. His work has lead to a dossier outlining three theories behind her disappearance.
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
These are that she was involved in an accident, that she went missing on purpose, or that someone else harmed her.
Even police in both France and Spain have been left dumbfounded by her disappearance, with similar theories being floated by authorities since she vanished.
Mr Colegate and his partner met at Oxford University where they both studied. Ms Dingley was reading Economics while Mr Colegate studied Chemistry.
A book and memoir written by Colegate and later published titled ‘What Adventures Shall We Have Today?: Travelling from More to Less in Search of a Simpler Life’, published in June, said that after they both graduated with first class degrees, they settled into successful academic careers.
Later, in 2013, the pair looked for a new start and Mr Colegate started working as an administrative worker at Newcastle University, while Ms Dingley worked as a personal trainer. They had also both been diagnosed with depression.
A wedding was arranged for February 2014, but at Christmas the year before, Mr Colegate required surgery and the pair decided to call off the wedding and set off for a new life of travelling.
Last year, Colegate arranged for them to stay in a remote farmhouse in the Pyrenees village of Arreau, which they decided to return to when lockdown began earlier this year. But at the end of October, Ms Dingley set off alone for a hike.
On November 15, she parked their campervan in the village of Benasque, which has now become the site of the on-going investigation into her whereabouts.
The last person to see the hiker was Spanish Olympic skier Marti Vigo del Arco, who was coming down from Pico Salvaguardia with his girlfriend on November 22 at around 3pm as Ms Dingley was going up.
It is known that she reached the peak of the mountain because of a selfie she sent to Colegate at the top, just before 4pm, and three days before she was expected to return to the Spanish village of Benasque.