Thirty-seven-year-old had been walking solo through mountains on France’s border with Spain when she disappeared in November 2020
Human remains found in the Pyrenees have been confirmed as those of missing British hiker Esther Dingley.
The 37-year-old was last seen on 22 November as she walked alone in the mountains near the Spanish and French border.
Charity LBT Global, which has been representing Ms Dingley’s family, said a bone found last week matched her DNA.
In a joint statement, Ms Dingley’s boyfriend, Daniel Colegate, and mother, Ria Bryant, said they were “distraught” and that the news was “devastating beyond words”.
“We are distraught to report that we have received DNA confirmation that one of the bones found last week belongs to Esther,” they said.
“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.
“At this stage, with just a single bone found and no sign of equipment or clothing in the immediate area (which has been closely searched again over several days), the details of what happened and where still remain unknown.
“The search and rescue teams intend to continue their search on foot and with drones, particularly trying to find some sign of Esther’s equipment to understand how this tragedy occurred.”
The couple, who met at Oxford University, had been travelling around Europe in a campervan since 2014, when they decided to leave behind their lives in Durham after Mr Colegate nearly died from an infection.
Ms Dingley, who was an experienced hiker, was last heard from on Sunday 22 November when she sent a message to Mr Colegate from the top of a mountain on the border between France and Spain.
She had been due to return from her solo trek on 25 November.
Matthew Searle MBE, chief executive of LBT Global, which supports people with family members missing overseas, said in a statement: “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.”