A HIKER who went missing in the Pyrenees late last year was taken “against her will”, her partner has claimed.

Esther Dingley and Dan Colegate, from Durham, had been travelling throughout Europe since 2014.

The 37-year-old set out to hike from the Port de la Glere to the Port de Venasque, a trek which follows the border between France and Spain, on November 21.

She was reported missing on November 25, after failing to return to her partner in Gascony in France.

The last contact Ms Dingley made with her partner was a Whatsapp message and photograph sent from Pic de Sauvegarde, the day after she set off.

In a statement on social media Mr Colgate hit back at claims she had voluntarily disappeared because she was unhappy in their relationship saying it was “salacious nonsense”.

He also said that if she had been injured in the mountains she would have been found by the searchers.

Mr Colegate said: “Because of the intensity and large scope of the search already undertaken, Esther’s habit of letting family know of route changes when possible, the nature of the terrain, the good phone signal in large parts of the area, the excellent weather at the time, and several other factors, I do not personally think that Esther had an accident.

“Furthermore, those of you who know Esther personally already know of her determination, physical strength and almost-inhuman tolerance for discomfort. Even if she had a broken leg, I have no doubt she would have still gotten down the mountain somehow, never mind take action to make shelter and become visible. It was not that far to a road on either side of the peak she had walked up to and it was downhill all the way. Nor are there many places where she could have fallen and been difficult to find. The chance she was somehow missed is vanishingly small. All of which leads me to believe that somebody else has been involved in Esther’s disappearance and against her will. This is a terrifying prospect and I wish I could believe otherwise.”