The partner of a British hiker who went missing in the Pyrenees has said the investigation into her disappearance is continuing despite reports police had suspended the search.
Esther Dingley, 37, had been walking solo in the mountains near the Spanish and French border and was last seen on November 22.
Daniel Colegate said on Sunday: “Regarding recent media coverage and comments by a member of the French police, my response is to restate my gratitude and respect for the hard work the police forces and the search and rescue teams in both France and Spain have already carried out and plan to continue with in the future.
“I have been in close contact with the lead investigator in both countries since early December.
“As I’ve said before, I’m aware of the challenges the police face in this investigation and I trust their abilities and determination.”
Mr Colegate, 38, had been hiking with Ms Dingley but was house-sitting at a French farmhouse on November 22.
Last week, French police captain Jean Marc Bordinaro told The Times “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.”
Mr Colegate said he intends to return to the area to repeat the intensive searches already carried out as soon as the weather permits.
He said: “I want to reiterate that Esther is an experienced hiker who was carrying suitable equipment in terrain that would not have been a challenge to her.
“If she suffered an accident, for whatever reason, I firmly believe she would have been found on or close to one of the extensive, well-made paths in the area.
“The fact no trace at all was found, despite a wide-ranging and intensive search in good weather before the snow arrived, was frustrating and baffling to those involved in the search at the time.
“That no other signs have been found elsewhere does not change the scope or intensity of that search.
“At the moment, those of us who love Esther can only continue with the agonising wait for news.”
The couple, who have been together for almost 19 years, met at Oxford University and lived in Durham before they set off travelling around Europe in a camper van six years ago.
“Not knowing where Esther is or what has happened to her is destroying me and our family, as life seems almost impossible to cope with.
“Esther’s mission in life is to spread love and happiness, but now I am numb and scared that I will never feel those emotions again.”
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