The boyfriend of missing British hiker Esther Dingley has called for a full investigation into the mystery figure spotted sleeping in his girlfriend’s campervan 10 days after she went missing.
Daniel Colgate raised the alarm three days after 37-year-old Esther set off on a solo hike in the Pyrenees on November 22. She has not been seen since.
On December 2, a dog walker said she saw a light on in the British-registered Fiat Chausson camper and, on closer inspection, spotted a figure lying on the back seat.
Sources close to the case insist the person pictured in the Chausson van late at night was not Mr Colgate, with whom she has been travelling with for six years.
Spanish police have dismissed the sighting in the Spanish resort of Benasque and say it is now ‘impossible’ to search for the missing Briton due to the ongoing terrible snow storms.
But Matt Searle, spokesman for Esther’s family and Mr Colgate, told MailOnline: ‘Daniel and Esther’s family are extremely interested to find out who was inside the camper with the lights on.
Pictured: Ms Dingley with her partner Daniel Colegate, who has been interviewed by police three times over her disappearance, who say he is being spoken to as a witness, not a suspect
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 – ten days after she vanished. Daniel Colegate, Ms Dingley’s partner, is now calling for an investigation into the figure who Spanish police claim was a plain clothed forensic officer
‘We are investigating the sighting of someone inside the van on 2 December. They are asking the Guardia Civil to investigate who it was as well.’
The young dog walker, called Lucia, said she first saw the light on in the van when she took her dog Tipo 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.
Officers ruled out the van sighting, claiming it was a plain clothed forensic officer – working late at night without protective clothing and driving an unmarked vehicle.
Earlier today it emerged that the Guardia Civil have all but abandoned efforts to find Esther as thick snow has blocked the mountain trails where she was last seen.
While Spanish investigators believe Esther is most likely to have suffered an accident in the mountains, their French counterparts across the border believe that is ‘not probable’.
They fear her disappearance is ‘either the result of a voluntary act or as the result of someone else’s actions’.
Esther was last seen by fellow hikers heading for the Salvaguardia peak on 22 November.
She sent Mr Colegate a selfie-picture of herself at the top.
Esther Dingley, 37, was hiking the Pyrenees mountains on the border between France and Spain when she vanished, prompting a search and rescue operation that has since been suspended due to the weather. Spanish police have said searching for her is now ‘impossible’
The experienced hiker intended to spent the night at a nearby refuge and descend the mountains into France over the following days but she never arrived.
Mr Colgate raised the alarm on 25 November but the Guardia Civil called off their search on 4 December due to the bad weather.
Today her family recruited the help of Mr Searle, who works for the missing persons abroad charity LBT Global, formerly known as the Lucie Blackman Trust, who was killed in Japan in 2000 while working as a bar hostess.
Mr Searle told MailOnline the charity would be using all its resources to look for Esther and urged the Guardia Civil to do the same.
The conditions continue to batter the picturesque resort and surrounding national park she ventured into.
The conditions continue to batter the picturesque resort and surrounding national park she ventured into (pictured) making the search for her ‘useless’ according to Spanish authorities
Sergeant Jorge Lopez, head of the Mountain Rescue brigade, said the arctic weather conditions made any further expedition up the mountains ‘useless’. He told MailOnline: ‘There has been heavy snow last night which makes a new search today impossible. Sergeant Lopez said it was ‘most probable’ that she had suffered an accident in the mountains
Sergeant Jorge Lopez, head of the Mountain Rescue brigade, said the arctic weather conditions made any further expedition up the mountains ‘useless’.
He told MailOnline: ‘There has been heavy snow last night which makes a new search today impossible.
‘It’s useless to search in a place with more than half a metre of snow.
‘A great effort has been made in the search for Esther but without result.
‘If weather conditions improve then we may carry out our normal tactical training in the Benasque area so that it doubles as a search.
‘But there is little chance of that happening at the moment.’
Trails leading up the mountains are now covered with thick snow.
Animal tracks – arctic hare, wild-goat, lynx and possibly bear – are the only sign of life.
Left: Esther Dingley with her partner Daniel Colegate. Miss Dingley was a yoga enthusiast who had been a private trainer before giving up her career to travel around Europe
Esther stayed at his 7,000ft Angel Orus Refuge (pictured) on November 17, and seemed ‘in very good spirits’
The Guardia Civil say they are ‘considering all options’ for Esther’s disappearance.
But Sergeant Lopez said it was ‘most probable’ that she had suffered an accident in the mountains.
He said: ‘When someone is lost in the mountains, the first hypothesis is always that they are in the mountains.’
French Gendarme Captain Jean-Marc Bordinaro said it is ‘not probable’ that Esther suffered an accident and her disappearance is ‘either the result of a voluntary act or as the result of someone else’s actions’.
He added that Esther and Daniel’s lives ‘were not as happy as the images posted on social media suggest’.
His comments came after officials interviewed Ms Dingley’s partner for a third time about her disappearance.
Four officers from the French Gendarmerie paramilitary force spoke to Colegate at the farmhouse in Gascony that he is house-sitting on Monday afternoon.
The Oxford graduate parked the Fiat camper in a car park in the Spanish town of Benasque on November 15 before setting off on her solo trek around the Pyrenees
Mr Colegate, 38, had stayed at the £1000-a-week holiday let while long-term partner Esther embarked on a solo hike trip in the Pyrenees mountains last month.
Bordinaro maintained that Mr Colegate had been interviewed as a witness, not a suspect, telling MailOnline: ‘We interviewed Daniel Colegate at the farmhouse where he is living in the Gers department on Monday.
‘We want to investigate all possibilities. We do not rule any line of inquiry.
‘But it does not seem probable that Esther suffered an accident, and it is not credible that she was eaten by a bear or that she has fallen into a lake.
‘We believe that her disappearance is either the result of a voluntary act, or as a result of someone else’s actions.
‘We went to see Mr Colegate so that we could go through social media with him – messages, etc.
‘It appears that their lives together were not as happy as the images posted on social media suggest.
‘However I would like to stress that we interviewed Mr Colegate as a witness not as a suspect.’
Dan Colegate, the British partner of missing hiker Esther Dingley, was searching for her alone in the Pyrenees earlier this week. Pictured: A map showing the likely route she was taking
The Oxford graduate was interviewed by the French Gendarmes and the Spanish Guardia Civil last week about Esther’s disappearance.
CCTV video released earlier this week showed Miss Dingley in a supermarket in the Pyrenees, where a shopper who saw her described her as looking ‘sad and thoughtful’.
The fitness enthusiast challenged staff at the Eroski store in Benasque over the price of a packet of chia seeds as she provisioned for her march over the mountains on Thursday 19th November.
A local English teacher could be seen coming to her rescue as Esther fails to understand the manager’s explanation over discrepancy in the cost of her shopping – as she could not understand Spanish.
In the supermarket, the Chia seeds had been marked at a discount which only applied to shoppers in possession of a store loyalty card, Maria-Carmen – the teacher who helped Ms Dingley in the shop – explained.
Pictured: Esther Dingley is seen at Eroski supermarket in Benasque, Spain on November 19, days before her disappearance. The video shows Ms Dingley appearing ‘sad and thoughtful’ as she wandered around the supermarket
Maria-Carmen told MailOnline: ‘Esther wanted to buy a packet of Chia seeds which were discounted. But you only get the discount if you have the Eroski loyalty card.
‘The girl at the till tried to explain this to her but she not understand because she did not speak Spanish.
‘So the girl called me and I came to explain this to her.
‘She said that didn’t matter and bought the seeds any way.
‘We didn’t have a long chat because I was on my way to work but she seemed a sad, thoughtful.’
Maria-Carmen explained: ‘I saw her a couple of days later doing yoga in the street by her camper van.
‘It is not a usual sight to see someone doing yoga in the street in Benasque so I noticed it.
‘Later I heard that the English woman, Esther, had gone missing and I contacted the police and told them that I had helped her.
‘I just hope she is ok.’