Esther Dingley’s remains were found in the Pyrenees by her boyfriend, Dan Colegate, nine months after her disappearance. Colegate led the search for his missing girlfriend since she vanished during a hike in November. He followed closely the routes his 37-year-old girlfriend had taken before finally finding her final remains.
The gruesome discovery was made Monday, just two weeks after a mountain runner found a bone fragment from Esther Dingley’s skull in the Pyrenees. DNA testing validated that the skull fragment was Dingley’s, which finally confirmed her death.
Authorities strongly believe Dingley’s death was an accident and that there was no foul play involved. Christophe Amunzateguy, the French prosecutor leading the investigation, explained that police believed “strongly, even almost exclusively,” that Esther Dingley’s death was an accident. The evidence, such as where her body was found, nearly confirmed the hypothesis, Amunzateguy said.
LBT Global, an international charitable organization that has been helping Dingley’s family throughout the search announced Dan Colegate’s discovery on Monday. In a statement, LBT Global said that “yesterday, on the afternoon of 9 August, Esther Dingley’s body and equipment were found together in the Pyrenees, close to where a bone was discovered two weeks ago.”
The statement continued, explaining that “the discovery was made by Esther’s partner Daniel Colegate, following relentless search efforts by him since her disappearance. A team of forensic specialists along with mountain rescue personnel were dispatched to the site in order to catalog the scene and recover Esther.”
“At this stage, an accident is the most likely hypothesis given the location and other early indications,” the organization concluded. “A full investigation is underway to confirm the details surrounding this tragedy. The family remains incredibly grateful for the efforts of the police units involved and their commitment to understanding the exact circumstances of Esther’s death. LBT Global is supporting Daniel and Esther’s mother, Ria, as they come to terms with this news.”
According to Amunzateguy, Dan Colegate found Dingley’s body high in the mountain. “It’s not the kind of place you just come across. It is high in the mountains and difficult to access,” he admitted. “I have just spoken to the gendarmes who are carrying out the investigation and they tell me that their inquiries lead them to believe strongly, even almost exclusively, that it was an accident.”
He continued, saying that only an experienced hiker would be able to reach it. He said that “as when any body is discovered we have sent out various teams to recover the body and collect forensic evidence because while we strongly believe this to be Madame Dingley, we will need to carry out scientific tests to establish that it is her.”
Dan Colegate had been searching for Esther Dingley since she disappeared on November 22. Authorities reported that the couple was in contact with each other the day she disappeared but that Colegate was over 100 miles away. He was staying in a French farmhouse while Dingley completed a month-long solo expedition, reports said. A few days after their final call, Colegate reported his girlfriend missing, claiming she missed her rendezvous time.
The search for Esther Dingley began at that time, but it was put on hold during the winter months. Severe storms prevented search and rescue operations for months. Then, in April, Colegate began his own solo journey to find his girlfriend, covering nearly 700 miles of rough terrain. Police followed suit a few weeks later. There was a stark lack of evidence, police reported. The failure to locate any signs of Esther Dingley “baffled” Colegate and police. Some believed Dan Colegate’s girlfriend had been kidnapped.
Dingley was a junior rower for Great Britain before going on her quest around Europe. She and Colegate hiked for six years, having left Durham in search of adventure. The beautiful couple met at the University of Oxford in 2003. They lived in Durham before their travels began in 2014. Their adventures led them to great financial success. They wrote about their travels in a popular blog and published five children’s books inspired by their dog, Leela.
Dan Colegate and Dingley’s mom, Ria Bryant, provided a joint statement last week confirming the hiker’s death. “We have all known for many months that the chance we would get to hug our beloved Esther again,” they wrote in the statement. To feel her warm hand in ours, to see her beautiful smile, and to watch the room light up again whenever she arrived was tiny, but with this confirmation that small hope has now faded. It is devastating beyond words.”