The mother of the missing hiker Esther Dingley has said she is “distraught” and that it was “utterly out of character” for her daughter to be out of contact for so long.
Dingley, 37, went missing more than three weeks ago while walking in the Pyrenees on the Spain-France border. No trace of her has been found despite an extensive police investigation.
In her first public statement on the disappearance, Dingley’s mother, Ria, said her daughter had spoken to her about difficult decisions she faced on her travels “primarily linked to Brexit” but that it did not “dampen her joy” of hiking across Europe.
She said: “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.”
Dingley had been hiking around Europe for six years with her partner of 19 years, Dan Colegate, both having left their jobs in Durham to set out on the trip of a lifetime after health complications.
The couple had been staying in a farmhouse in southern France when Dingley, an Oxford graduate, went hiking alone across the Spanish border at the end of October.
Ria said she and Colegate were “distraught” and appealed for any potential witnesses to come forward. The family are being supported by the Lucie Blackman Trust, which has set up a hotline and urged anyone with information to get in touch.
She added: “Esther is an open book. She openly shared some of the difficult decisions that she and Dan would be facing soon, primarily linked to Brexit and the impact that would have on their itinerant lifestyle, but that didn’t dampen her joy for the life they both were living.”
Colegate dismissed media reports that she was unhappy, which appear to have come from a French police source. He said they had completed a 1,000-mile hike across Europe and always planned to spend two weeks apart. “Our last conversation was totally loving and all smiles. She was so happy, and we were excited to see each other,” he added.