A British backpacker who has been missing for more than 10 days in the Pyrenees mountains was reportedly given a lift by a mystery man just before she vanished.
Esther Dingley, 37, embarked on a month-long trek to follow the border between France and Spain and was due to return on Wednesday.
But a Facebook post revealed she accepted a lift from a fellow traveller after bad weather forced her to change her plans.
‘I had the option of staying at a great cabin, even had a mattress, but it was only 2pm or going down with my fellow hiker and getting a lift,’ Esther wrote on November 19.
‘He’d take me further up the valley so I could continue my planned tour to another refuge or back to the camper…’
The man is thought to have dropped Esther off at Benasque, on the Spanish side of the mountain range, where her camper van was parked.
Police hope to find the mystery man and speak with him to try and work out what happened to Esther.
An investigative source in Spain told The Sun: ‘This man would have had conversations with her and may know what she planned.
‘They may have arranged to meet and hike another route. It is imperative that we find him.’
She was due to meet her boyfriend Dan Colegate, 38, on Wednesday at a farm in Gascony he had been staying at while they were apart, but never showed up.
He said police have started looking at options ‘beyond an accident’, following an extensive search of the trek route and mountains.
Dan branded the development ‘terrifying in many ways’ and said he would do anything to hold her again.
‘For several days now there has been talk that perhaps Esther might not be up there and that this was the reason they couldn’t find her,’ he wrote.
‘However, with no result day after day, taking into account Esther’s high level of experience, the nature of the terrain, the good weather she would have had, the fact she had a clearly defined route for Sunday evening and Monday, and various other factors, both search coordinators have essentially told me that although they can never be 100% sure, the prevailing opinion in the search teams is that she isn’t there.
‘That if she had fallen from one of the paths, they really would have expected to find her given the intensity, the closeness of the search and the fact most of the trails are really quite straightforward across open ground.’
The couple, from Durham, started to travel in 2014 after Mr Colegate had a serious health scare and had been documenting their camper van adventures online.
Esther, an Oxford University graduate, has been reported as a missing person in Spain and the UK foreign office says it is supporting her family.
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