The mystery of missing Briton Esther Dingley’s disappearance deepened today after someone was spotted sleeping in the hiker’s campervan ten days after she vanished.
A dog walker said she saw a light on in the British-registered Fiat Chausson camper and then, on closer inspection, spotted a figure lying on the back seat.
The young woman, called Lucia, said she first saw the light on in the van when she took her dog Tipo out for a walk at about 7pm on December 2 in Benasque,
However, she became increasingly concerned when saw the figure laying down in the back when she popped out a second time at 10pm.
In an exclusive interview with MailOnline, Lucia said she was ‘fobbed off’ when she called the Spanish police.
A dog walker took this picture (above) of missing British hiker Esther Dingley’s campervan with its light on and someone sleeping in the back parked in Benasque, Spain, on December 2
The witness called Lucia (left) told MailOnline that she spotted the mysterious figure laying in the back of the van – ten days after Esther, 37, was last seen on November 22 and told police
Esther, 37, from Aylesbury, in Buckinghamshire, had left her campervan in the car park (pictured) sometime after November 16 to go hiking alone up the Spanish Pyrenees mountains
Esther and her partner of 18 years, Daniel Colegate (pictured) have spent six years driving around Europe in their motor home after quitting their jobs and renting out their flat in Durham
‘I saw someone sleeping in the back of the caravan car and I couldn’t believe it,’ Lucia told MailOnline.
‘Everyone in Benasque knows about the missing English girl. And I knew that was her van. It is the only camping car that is British.
‘I first saw the light on when I took my dog out at about 7pm. It seemed a bit strange.
‘Then I took the dog out again at about 10pm and I took a closer look. I could see someone asleep in the back of the van. They were lying down. They were not moving. They were lying quite still.
Lucia showed MailOnline the photo on her phone (above) to prove when it was taken
‘I thought that was very strange so I took a photo with my phone. And when I got home I called the Guardia Civil [Spanish paramilitary police].
‘I told them I had seen someone sleeping in the back of the English girl’s caravan.
‘But they weren’t interested. They did not send anyone to inspect the vehicle.’
Fitness enthusiast Esther had parked the vehicle to go hiking up the Pyrenees on sometime after November 16.
The 37-year-old was last seen on Sunday November 22 by fellow hikers in the Spanish Pyrenees.
She later sent a picture from the summit of the Pic de Sauveguarde mountain to partner Daniel Colegate.
Worried Mr Colegate, 38, reported Esther missing three days later on November 25 when she failed to appear at the other side of the mountains in France as planned.
He first told friends and family of her disappearance on November 28 in a Facebook post.
He wrote: ‘I’m broken. Shattered to report that my beloved Esther, the person who taught me how to feel, is missing.
‘She has was last seen six days ago when she sent me this photo. Search and rescue teams have so far found no trace of her.
‘I’m heading back up searching now so I can’t reply to comments or messages. Sorry for the haste and inadequacy of these words,’ he added.
Now the vehicle has been impounded by the Guardia Civil who are combing it for evidence after suspicions were raised that she may not have simply had an accident in the mountains
Daniel, who met Esther when they were students at Oxford University, updated the Facebook page on December 1 and 2 thanking well-wishers for their support and said he was continuing to search the mountain trails for her.
French Police told MailOnline that Mr Colegate, from Nottingham, was staying in a hotel during his search for her and when he gave Spanish detectives a statement.
Gendarme Capitaine Jean-Marc Bordinaro, who is leading the French part of the Franco-Spanish investigation told MailOnline: ‘Mr Colegate travelled to Spain to look for Esther.
Esther was hiking the Pyrenees mountains on the border between France and Spain when she vanished, prompting a search operation that has since been suspended due to the weather
Esther’s partner Mr Colegate (together left) broke news of her disappearance to friends on Facebook on November 28. He has since searched for her, staying in a hotel, say French police
‘He gave a statement to the Guardia Civil. He stayed in a hotel in Spain and then he returned to France, to the farmhouse in the Gers department.’
When Spanish Police were contacted about the presence of someone in Esther’s van at 10pm on December 2, they said it was one of their forensic officers. They have since declined to comment.
Esther was seen at a supermarket in Benasque, Spain, on November 19, before she vanished
The van was impounded by the Guardia Civil three days after the sighting on December 5 and is parked in the police compound for forensic examination.
Mr Colegate is staying at a £1,000-a-week farmhouse a three-hour drive away in the French district of Gers during the search.
Both he and Esther were staying at the property and looking after it for the owners when Esther left to embark on her solo hike in the mountains.
He is being supported by his father who has travelled from his home in Nottingham.