Human bones recovered in the French Pyrenees belong to a British hiker who went missing last November, the woman’s family said on Friday following a DNA test.
Esther Dingley, 37, had been walking on her own in the mountain range, which straddles the border of France and Spain, but had not been heard from since sending a WhatsApp message on November 22.
She had driven to Spain from France at the end of October, leaving her partner Daniel Colegate behind. He later raised the alarm over her whereabouts, prompting a major search and rescue effort on both sides of the border.
On Wednesday, a source close to the investigation in France said remains had been found near Bagneres-de-Luchon, in the south of the country and sent for DNA analysis at a forensic laboratory in Toulouse.
“We are distraught to report that we have received DNA confirmation that one of the bones found last week belongs to Esther,” Colegate and Dingley’s mother Ria Bryant said in a statement released by the charity LBT Global.
They said while they knew the prospect of her survival had been “tiny” that “with this confirmation that small hope has now faded”. The family added the news had been “devastating beyond words”.
Only a single bone belonging to Dingley had been recovered and there had been no sign of equipment or clothing in the immediate area despite a meticulous search, the statement from the overseas support organisation said.
Rescue teams will continue their search on foot and with drones to find signs of her equipment and understand the circumstances of her disappearance, which remain unknown, it added.
Dingley had planned to make a loop around the Salvaguardia peak, which stands at 2,738 metres (8,982 feet) above sea level, between Spain and where her vehicle was parked, according to investigators.
The BBC reported she and Colegate, who were partners for 20 years, had travelled around Europe in a camper van after leaving northeast England in 2014.
Colegate was house-sitting at Gascony vineyard while his girlfriend took their motor home on the journey to Spain.
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