Detectives probing the death of a British hiker have said they cannot rule out foul play after her skull was found in the Pyrenees.
Missing adventurer, Esther Dingley’s partner Dan Colegate and mum Ria Bryant are said to have “many questions” after DNA tests this week showed the skull belonged to her.
The 37-year-old, from Durham, vanished on a solo mountain trek eight months ago. Her kit and the rest of her remains have still not been found, Mirror reports.
Drones and foot patrols scoured the area on Saturday (July 31) for clues as police continue working to uncover whether Esther died by accident or foul play.
Authorities have yet to find Esther’s yellow tent and her red and grey backpack.
A police source said: “The enquiry is ongoing. There are still many questions to be answered and that is why mountain searches are continuing.”
Dan, 38, and Ria said in a joint statement learning where Esther’s remains had been “devastating beyond words”.
Missing person's charity LBT Global is supporting them as they attempt to understand what happened. Boss Matt Searle said: “While this brings an end to hopes Esther would be found alive, it leaves many questions unanswered.
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“We will be supporting Dan, Ria and the rest of Esther’s loved ones and will do all we can to ensure as much as possible is known about her final moments.
“It would be wrong to speculate with such scant information to hand.”
Esther’s aunt, Elizabeth Wolsey Morgan, 68, sister of the backpacker’s dad, said: “I’m devastated to lose such a truly special person. My son and daughter are distraught.”
One theory suggests wild animals, such as brown bears and wolves which roam the area, may have found the skull in a gully and carried it to the spot near the French mountain pass of Port de la Gléré, where it was found by hikers.
Col Xavier Wargnier, a senior French officer on the search, said: “This is the most plausible hypothesis.”
He said the skull, found at an altitude above 7,000ft, could also have been dislodged by melting snow in the spring thaw.
Esther’s close friend, British expat Christine Millership, 67, said: “Maybe we will never know how [she died].
“At least I know she’s not suffering. Her family can find some closure.”
Christine said of Dan’s refusal to stop searching: “Now they have something tangible. That’s all down to Dan.”
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