AUTHORITIES searching for hiker Esther Dingley, who went missing in the Pyrenees more than a fortnight ago, are reportedly considering the possibility she has deliberately disappeared because her nomadic lifestyle was about to end.
Ms Dingley and Dan Colegate, from Durham, had been travelling throughout Europe since 2014.
The 37-year-old set out to hike from the Port de la Glere to the Port de Venasque, a trek which follows the border between France and Spain, on November 21.
She was reported missing on November 25, after failing to return to her partner in Gascony in France.
Considerable search operations have taken place on both sides of the border but they have been thwarted by poor weather.
On December 1, Mr Colegate said in a social media post that “other options beyond a mountain accident” were being considered as search officials would have expected to find her if she was in the mountains.
In an interview with The Times, Captain Jean-Marc Bordinaro of France’s Gendarmerie de Saint-Gaudens has now said: “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 added: “Did Esther Dingley 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.”
However, a spokesman for missing persons charity LBT Global, which is assisting Mr Colegate, said “there is absolutely no suggestion that (Ms Dingley) was seeking ‘another life’”.
Mr Colegate has said he was “very grateful” for the extensive efforts of rescue teams in Spain and France, which had utilised helicopters, dogs and a drone.
In his December 1 Facebook post, he said: “She was so utterly happy and joyful when we last spoke, I’d do anything to see her face and hold her right now.”
The couple, from Durham, started to travel after Mr Colegate had a serious health scare, and had been documenting their campervan adventures online and written a children’s books based on their travels with five dogs.
A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesman has previously said its staff were “supporting the family of a British woman reported missing in the Pyrenees and are in contact with the French and Spanish authorities”.