Police searching for missing British hiker Esther Dingley find bones near site where she last made contact with her boyfriend in November – but warn it could take WEEKS to determine if they are hers
Esther Dingley went missing while on a solo hike in the Pyrenees in November
Police confirmed they had resumed search for missing British hiker in mid-June
Specialist officers have been able to comb the 8,796ft Pico Salvaguardia summit
She last made contact with her partner Daniel Colegate at 4pm on November 22
Police searching for missing hiker Esther Dingley have found bones near the site where she last made contact with her boyfriend in November.
French police confirmed remains had been found at Port de la Glere but said it would take ‘several days or even weeks’ before they were properly analysed and any results obtained.
A mountain runner raised the alarm around 2pm on Friday after discovering what he believed could be the remains of a body.
Spanish police went to the area but had to alert their French counterparts after discovering the spot was just over the border.
French police have now taken charge of the investigation to try to confirm they are human bones and if they are, who they could belong to. Spanish police sources said they appeared to be human bones.
French police chief Jean Marc Bordinaro said: ‘We cannot say anything at the moment because the discovery of the bones is too recent and they must be properly analysed.
‘We will not have a result for several days and possibly several weeks.’
A prosecutor based in Saint-Gaudens is expected to make an official statement if there are any changes to the current situation.
Spanish Civil Guard said the discovery was a matter for the French police to comment on as the bones had been found on their side of the border.
Civil Guard sergeant Jorge Lopez Ramos, whose elite mountain search and rescue team led an eight-day search for Esther on the Spanish side of the border before it was halted last December because of bad weather, confirmed late last year Port de la Glere was on the route Esther told her boyfriend she was planning to take before she disappeared.
Referring to the mountain pass by its Spanish name, he said at the time: ‘Esther told her partner she was planning to spend the night in a nearby refuge on the French side of the border called Venasque before doing a long half-circle to re-enter Spain through a mountain pass called Puerto de la Glera and heading back down to Llanos del Hospital.
‘It would have been a long day’s walk or she could have spent the night somewhere and finished the following day.
‘We don’t know if she reached Venasque that night. It’s shut at the moment and only an emergency part of it is open for people to sleep in and consume any food they have with them.’
Mr Bordinaro had previously admitted the possibility Durham-born Esther had suffered a mountain accident was a ‘strong one.’
A Civil Guard source said: ‘A mountain runner has found what could be human bones just over the French side of the border at Puerto de la Glera.
‘He called the Civil Guard who went to the area but after confirming it was on the French side of the border they called the French Gendarmerie who went to the spot and have now taken charge of things.
‘They appear to be human remains but it will up to French police now to analyse them.’
Another Spanish source said it appeared ’90 per cent certain’ they were human remains.
Puerto de la Glera – Port de la Glere in France – is close to the 8,796ft Pico Salvaguardia summit where Oxford graduate Esther last made contact with her partner Dan Colegate around 4pm on November 22 last year.
Specialist officers from Spain and France have carried out several searches of the area around the Puerto de la Glera hiking trail.
Esther’s partner claimed in a recent BBC interview he ‘could no longer agree’ with the idea she had suffered an accident.
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.’
Spanish Civil Guard officers resumed the search for Esther in mid-June and have been supported by a helicopter from a permanent base in the town of Benasque, where the missing hiker was staying before she vanished.
A Spanish court probe that opened after the Durham-born 37-year-old went missing on November 22 remains open.
A woman judge based an hour’s drive away from the Pyrenees village of Benasque in Boltana remains in charge of the Spanish judicial probe sparked by Esther’s disappearance.
Maria Saenz Martinez has yet to approve the return of the camper van Esther had travelled to Spain in to her boyfriend.
The vehicle remains at a Civil Guard station in Benasque where it was taken for forensic analysis soon after Esther vanished.
French investigators have made their own inquiries and share information with their Spanish counterparts on a regular basis but are understood to have obtained no new indications about what might have happened to the missing Brit since the suspension of the mountain search.
Esther was expected to spend the night in an unmanned shelter on the French side of the border the day of her last conversation with her boyfriend but it is not known if she ever arrived.
They spoke after she reached the summit of Pico Salvaguardia, which the French call Pic de Sauvegarde, for the second time in two days.
She was seen by several witnesses including an Olympic Spanish skier asking for some fruit hiking on the path leading up to the summit.
Esther’s mum admitted in February: ‘Each day has been nothing short of an excruciating hell for me, balancing on the edge of breaking down.
‘Not knowing where she is or what has happened to our beautiful Esther is destroying me and our family