The long-term boyfriend of a British hiker who vanished on a hiking trail on the border of Spain and France in November said this week that he believes his partner was taken “against her will.”
Dan Colegate, 38, and Esther Dingley, 37, had ditched their careers in Durham, England to embark on a six-year-and-counting RV journey around Europe and its stunning coastlines in 2014. The longtime couple and Oxbridge graduates made the decision after Colgate survived a near-death experience with necrotising fasciitis, which the BBC referred to as a “flesh-eating bacteria” in a November feature article on the couple and their travels.
But on Nov. 22, Dingley disappeared during a solo trek to the summit of Pic de Sauveguard, a mountain between Spain and France. Colegate said in a Tuesday Facebook post on a page shared with his partner of nearly 19 years that he believes that she did not have an accident on the hike and that she must have been taken.
“Esther is highly intelligent and an experienced hiker. She's well aware what a search operation involves as we've seen several in action. The idea she would trigger that and put others at risk to get some time alone, rather than simply say ‘I need some time alone’ is ridiculous to me,” he wrote. “All of which leads me to believe that somebody else has been involved in Esther's disappearance and against her will. This is a terrifying prospect and I wish I could believe otherwise, but I cannot.”
Dingley was last seen in a WhatsApp video call on the afternoon of Nov. 22 made from the top of Pic de Sauvegarde, according to an information packet provided by Colegate. Her plan was to proceed down to the border crossing at Port de Venasque, then spend the night at an unstaffed shelter on the French side of the border. The following day, she was set to hike a specified route on the French side of the border before returning, the packet states.
French and Spanish police looking into her disappearance have turned up no trace of the experienced hiker, and as the BBC reported, they have said they are open to all possibilities in her disappearance, including "non-accidental."
In 2014, the couple had successful careers, with Colegate working as a business development manager and Dingley running her own personal training firm, and they were just weeks from getting married, the BBC reported in 2020. However, he was in counseling for depression while she battled chronic fatigue sparked by her own mental health struggles. It was Colegate’s brush with death that prompted them to ditch it all and hit the road.
Over the years, the couple did not stick together constantly, as they told the BBC, but would part ways for solo excursions and time apart, as Colegate liked to stay in at times while Dingley preferred to keep mobile.
In his recent Facebook post, Colegate, who is reportedly now living in France, detailed the couple’s relationship and “unconventional lifestyle.”
“Like any couple, sometimes there is tension between us, especially when we do something physically demanding,” he wrote. “That's why we work hard on our relationship and our communication. We believe a relationship is about two people supporting each other to reach their potential, a dance of individuality and togetherness.”
Anyone with information about Dingley is encouraged to contact LBT Global Hotline at +44 (0) 800 098 8485, via WhatsApp at +44 (0) 7545 826 497, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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