Human remains found in the search for missing hiker Esther Dingley who disappeared in the Pyrenees have been confirmed as a match for her.
Ms Dingley, 37, had been walking solo in the mountains near the Spanish and French border and was last seen on November 22.
LBT Global, the charity representing her family, said DNA testing confirmed that human remains were a match, but stressed that the investigation is still in its infancy, with just one bone currently located.
Ms Dingley’s partner Daniel Colegate and her mother Ria Bryant said in a statement: “We are distraught to report that we have received DNA confirmation that one of the bones found last week belongs to Esther.
“We have all known for many months that the chance we would get to hug our beloved Esther again, to feel her warm hand in ours, to see her beautiful smile and to watch the room light up again whenever she arrived was tiny, but with this confirmation that small hope has now faded.
“It is devastating beyond words.”
They said there was no sign of equipment or clothing in the immediate area, which has been closely searched again over several days. Details of what happened and remain unknown.
Mr Colegate and Ms Bryant said the family would like to express their gratitude to the officers in charge of the various police units in France and Spain, the British consulates in Bordeaux and Barcelona, and LBT Global.
Esther Dingley with her partner Dan Colegate
“Their continued support and their determination to find answers is welcome,” they said.
Mr Colegate and Ms Dingley met at Oxford University and lived in Durham before they set off travelling around Europe in a camper van six years ago.
LBT Global chief executive Matthew Searle said: “This is the tragic end we have all feared. This is devastating news for Esther’s loved ones – never before have I seen such incredible determination as that showed by Daniel in his relentless physical search of the mountains.
“We ask that media leave the family in peace at this incredibly difficult time.”
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