Authorities are racing to track down a man who encountered a missing British hiker in the Pyrenees mountains, raising concerns that the disappearance may not just be an accident, The Sun reports.
Esther Dingley, 37, a British blogger, went missing more than a week ago while she was hiking alone in the mountain range between Spain and France.
Dingley wrote in a Facebook post on November 19 that she met a man at the peak of a mountain, hiked down together, and accepted a ride from him back to her camper van. The encounter was three days before Dingley was last seen.
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Dingley wrote in the Facebook post, “It was the first time I’d seen anyone else for almost two days and as this kind fellow hiker took some photos the weather blew in.”
“I had the option of staying at a great caban, even had a mattress, but it was only 2pm or going down with my fellow hiker and getting a lift….He’d take me further up the valley so I could continue my planned tour to another refuge, or back to the camper.
‘There will be more days in the hills!’ I said to the little part of me that didn’t want to go back just yet. “This was about making it easy on myself. It would be warm and sunny back at the camper and here was someone willing to take me…And then as we drove off this magnificent rainbow appeared. Yoga, good food and sunshine and warmth awaited me back at the camper.”
Police believe the man may have knowledge that could be valuable in finding Dingley. A source with knowledge of the investigation told The Sun that the man may have known Dingley’s plans.
“They may have arranged to meet and hike another route,” the source told The Sun. “It is imperative that we find him.”
Investigators suspect that Dingley may no longer be in the mountains and have classified her as a missing person across Spain.
Dingley had apparently reached Pic de Sauvegarde, a mountaintop, on November 22 and sent her partner, Dan Colegate, a photo using WhatsApp. It was their last known contact.
Dingley had intended to then walk eight miles between Port de la Gléré and Port de Venasque before hiking down the mountains.
But after not hearing from Dingley for two days, Colegate reported her missing on November 24, which triggered a massive search mission. Authorities have tried to use phone data to trace where Dingley was located. Her phone may have pinged from various phone towers in the region.
Dingley is believed to have started walking from the small Spanish town of Benasque on Nov. 21. Her camper van was discovered abandoned there, according to the BBC.
French police say they have not been able to find any trace of Dingley after 4 p.m. Nov. 22. She was supposed to be traversing well-marked paths that were often frequented by hikers, and multiple witnesses had reported seeing her on the Spanish side of the mountains.
Colegate posted on Facebook that authorities are investigating the potential beyond a mountain accident.
“While this is a terrifying development in many ways, I’m trying to focus on the fact that it leaves the door open that Esther might still come home,” Colegate wrote. “She was so utterly happy and joyful when we last spoke, I’d do anything to see her face and hold her right now.”
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[Feature Photo: Esther Dingley/Facebook]