ESTER Dingley’s mum will take a DNA test to identify if the “human” remains found on a mountain path are those of the missing Brit.
The hiker from Durham vanished in November last year while climbing the 8,796ft Pico Salvaguardia in the Pyrenees.
On Thursday afternoon two Spanish hikers were reported by Radio Huesca, a regional station, to have found a skull with long hair, suggesting a female, lying among boulders on the French approach to Port de la Glere.
They alerted the Guardia Civil in Benasque, the Spanish town ringed by snow-clad summits that Dingley had set out from last year.
After sending a team to the site to determine the remains were on French soil, the Spanish handed the case over to the French gendarmerie.
By then French hikers also had reported seeing the remains.
And cops investigating her disappearance are now analysing to determine whether they are human bones and, if so, who they could belong to.
Spanish police visited the area but later alerted their French counterparts after finding the spot was just over the border.
Esther’s boyfriend Dan Colegate said the area, Puerto de la Glera – Port de la Glere in French – was part of the route he had expected her to take.
He insisted it would have been “well within” the Oxford graduate’s capabilities in a dossier he released in January through charity LBT Global, which has been helping Dan and Esther’s family.
Speaking about Esther’s plans to do a circular hike between Spain and France, Dan said: “An individual that Esther met on November 19 came forward to say he had specifically suggested this route through France, between Port de Venasque and Port de la Glere, to Esther when he met her.
“There is no reason to think that Esther did not stick to this plan.”
This route would have been well within Esther’s capabilities for a day hike, in addition to the fact she had a tent, camping equipment and significant experience using it.
He added: “Her onward route would have involved a descent northwards towards the Hospice de France, a flat traverse westwards around the Imperatrice Way, and a climb southwards to the border at Port de la Glere.
“From the border the route descends back towards Hospital de Benasque.
“This route would have been well within Esther’s capabilities for a day hike, in addition to the fact she had a tent, camping equipment and significant experience using it.”
Dan said it is “basically impossible to get lost in good visibility” in the area.
“The entire route is a well-made and easy to follow path,” he said.
“Although Esther believed and had warned family that there was poor signal in the area, in fact the signal is very good on the French side.
“Within half an hour of leaving the refuge, Esther should have been able to use her phone for most of the rest of the day.”
Cops said it could take “several days or even weeks” before any results are obtained.
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.”
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.
One unconfirmed local report said the discovery was a human skull, which could be Esther’s “because of the colour and length of hair”.
Officials have not gone into any detail about what sort of remains have been found, nor whether they could be Esther’s, although both have spoken of bones.
Puerto de la Glera in France is close to the summit where Oxford graduate Esther last made contact with her partner of 20 years Dan Colegate around 4pm on November 22, 2020.
She sent a selfie to Dan, whom she met while at university where they both studied chemistry.
Specialist officers have carried out extensive searches of the area around the Puerto de la Glera hiking trail.
Mr Bordinaro previously admitted the possibility Durham-born Esther had suffered a mountain accident was a “strong one”.
And Spanish and French police both admitted they had found no evidence of any foul play.
But Esther’s partner claimed in a recent BBC interview he “could no longer agree” with the idea she had suffered an accident.
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.
Partner Dan Colegate
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.”
The 38-year-old has spent months frantically searching for clues about what happened to his partner.
He has insisted the paths Esther had been hiking along were ones “children walk with their parents in summer, close to easy-access roads”.
Spanish police confirmed last month they had resumed their search for Esther after the winter snow thawed.
Sergeant Jorge Lopez Ramos said at the time that snow on the French side of the summit was still making it impossible to restart the search there, adding that summer was the “most likely time of the year” officials would get information that could help them determine what had happened.
A spokesperson for LBT Global, which has been helping Dan and Esther’s family, said following the discovery of the remains: “We are seeking information urgently of what has been found.
“At this stage there’s no comment from either the family or us.”
Esther and Dan had been travelling together in the Pyrenees before the former personal trainer headed off on a four-week solo hiking trip.
But just three days before she was due to return to the village of Benasque, Spain, the travel blogger vanished.
A total of six people have gone missing in the same region as Esther in the past 15 years, authorities have revealed.