A Durham woman who has spent six years touring Europe in a campervan with her partner has gone missing while hiking in the Pyrenees.
Esther Dingley, 37, was climbing mountains in Luchonnais near the border between Spain and France - and last spoke to her partner Dan Colegate when she reached the top of the peak on 22nd November.
Mr Colegate says he is “shattered” and “broken” by her disappearance.
The couple left behind jobs and a flat in Durham in 2014 to travel the continent in a mobile home, documenting their travels in a blog.
Daniel Colegate, Esther’s partner of 19 years, and her mother Ria wanted to speak out to tell the world about Esther. Ria says,
“It is utterly out of character for her to be out of contact for this length of time and we are missing her desperately. Esther values family above everything and on all her trips we are always in regular contact, sharing the day to day small details of life. We communicated several times every day.”
Daniel says that contrary to some reports, they are a normal couple:
“We’ve been together for almost 19 years – a couple since February 2002. I find it frustrating to be known as “the boyfriend”. We only did not get married because I was too sick due to the same illness that catalysed our nomadic lifestyle. We had to cancel our wedding in February 2014 because I had only just got out of hospital and could not walk. 2 months later we started travelling. We are soulmates. Once on the road, having a wedding certificate no longer seemed important.
“This summer we did a 1000-mile hike together and we always planned to spend 2 weeks doing our own thing afterwards, because we knew it was good for us as individuals and for our relationship. We had just spent 80 days in the wilderness with just each other for company. I wanted to relax in a house due to my health issues, Esther wanted to take advantage of the mild autumn and do some more outdoor things.
“That was why she went touring solo; it was pre-planned and agreed upon. It was a non-event for us. We had done it before."
LBT Global has set up a hotline for information and an email address is available. There have been reports that people are worried about coming forward due to their committing a breach of lockdown rules. Chief Executive Matthew Searle MBE says:
“We are not interested in any rule breaking. If you have information please do pass it to us, anonymously if you wish, and it will be passed to investigators. Whether somebody has stepped over a border or not is immaterial, what matters is that every bit of information that could bring Esther home is provided.”