Search for missing Durham hiker 'likely to be suspended until spring' say police

The hunt for Esther Dingley could be halted until the spring. Credit: Esther Dingley

French police say they will "probably" have to wait until spring to continue the search for a British hiker who went missing late last year in the Pyrenees.

Esther Dingley, 37, had been walking solo in the mountains near the Spanish and French border and was last seen on November 22.

French police captain Jean Marc Bordinaro told The Times newspaper "all possible investigations" in French territory have been carried out "without any result".

He said: "We have no indication permitting us to confirm the presence of Esther Dingley in France since she was seen for the last time on the Spanish side of the Pic de Sauvegarde.<

"We'll probably have to wait till spring to undertake more searches."

Ms Dingley's partner Daniel Colegate, who had been hiking with her but was house-sitting at a French farmhouse on November 22, said earlier this month he did not believe she fell or had some other kind of accident.

He also dismissed suggestions she could have voluntarily disappeared.

Writing on Facebook, Mr Colegate denied the idea Ms Dingley would spark a major search operation by vanishing, rather than simply telling him she needed time alone.

He said: "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."<

The couple, who have been together for almost 19 years, met at Oxford University and lived in Durham before they set off traveling around Europe in a camper van six years ago.