ESTHER Dingley is more likely to have lost her way and become the victim of a tragic mountain accident than have been the target of a crime, an rescue expert has claimed.
Human remains believed to those of the missing Brit were found by a mountain runner last Friday afternoon, on a path regularly used by walkers in the Pyrenees
The remains were being checked by French forensic experts against DNA samples from Esther’s mother Ria, while her dental records were also being checked for a match.
The discovery comes after Esther vanished in November last year, while climbing the 8,796ft Pico Salvaguardia in the Pyrenees. The 37-year-old had not been seen or heard from since.
Speaking after the grisly discovery of what was believed to be a human skull and hair in the area last week, mountain rescue guide Patrick Lagleize said he believed it likely that Esther had lost her way and fallen to her death.
Mr Lagleize, President of the Pyrenean Guides Association (CGdP) told told French website LaDepeche.fr: “You can lose the way and slide on the scree (rocks and gravel).
“Logically, for Esther to have fallen that way, is unfortunately quite plausible.”
“For Esther to have fallen that way, is unfortunately quite plausible.”
Mountain rescue guide Patrick Lagleize
He added a note of caution: “We must be careful and await the DNA analysis.”
Spanish police have reportedly said they are 90 per cent sure the skull is human, and believe it may have been moved by a wild animal from elsewhere.
This theory came about as extensive searches over the last few weeks produced no sign of Durham born-Esther.
Mr Lagleize is no stranger to the hazards associated with the Port de la Glère near the French-Spanish border, where Esther was last sighted.
The Port, or pass, is four miles long and incredibly steep; rising and falling 2,000ft to reach a maximum altitude of 7,794ft.
LOST HER WAY
Mr Lagleize spoke of an earlier case, in which the skeleton of missing French climber Gatien Loison, 32, was found nearby in 2012, three years after his disappearance.
“When there is a disappearance in the mountains and the victim cannot be found, then it is because we cannot match them with their planned itinerary.
“It is then necessary to count on luck to find traces of the person, often several months, even several years later.
“We cannot find the victims in the mountains if we do not understand the logic of their path.
“I am thinking of the disappearance of Gatien Loison. The guy was a seasoned hiker, but not a mountaineer. However, he fell while trying to climb out. It didn’t make any sense. Hence the difficulty in finding him.
“After that, unfortunately, you have to rely on luck.”
Even if mountaineers did stay on their chosen track, Mr Lagleize said the Port de la Glère had more than its share of dangers.
As a former member of the Gendarmerie’s elite rescue unit, the ‘High Mountain Platoon’ (PGHM), Mr Port de la Glère said he was once called out to rescue a group of people who had become stranded on a rocky ridge.
In their situation, a mis-step of a few centimetres would have been extremely serious, he said.
“We had also been called for another person who had fallen. There, the outcome was much less favourable.”
The wait continues for Esther’s mother and boyfriend, who are said to have based themselves in France while they wait for news on whether the remains have been identified hers.
Esther’s partner of 20 years, Dan Colegate, recently claimed in a recent BBC interview he “could no longer agree” with the idea she had suffered an accident.
The 38-year-old, who had been touring Europe with Esther prior to her disappearance, has spent months frantically searching for clues about what happened to his partner.
He said: “The search has been so prolonged and so intense, that as far as I’m concerned the probability of an accident is now less than the probability of a criminal act.”
Source: The Sun