The heartbroken mum of missing hiker Esther Dingley has spoken of the “excruciating hell" she’s living in not knowing what's happened.
Esther, 37, of Durham,vanished in November on a solo trek through the Pyrenees.
Mountain rescue teams found no trace and a search was called off on December 3 because of bad weather.
The mountain rescue team involved in last year’s operation to find Esther have admitted they have no plans to restart the search until April at the earliest.
But the relaunch could be nearly five months away if there is heavy snow and temperatures stay low over the next few weeks.
Esther’s heartbroken mum, Ria Bryant, said: “I find it so hard to put into words how I have been feeling as I wait to find out what has happened to my daughter and best friend, our beautiful Esther.
“Each day has been nothing short of an excruciating hell for me, balancing on the edge of breaking down.
“Not knowing where Esther is or what has happened to her is destroying me and our family, as life seems almost impossible to cope with.
“Esther’s mission in life is to spread love and happiness, but now I am numb and scared that I will never feel those emotions again.
“It was my birthday last week and I missed her terribly. She has always been so thoughtful and attentive on birthdays and I found that very, very hard.”
Esther had been travelling through Europe with her partner, Dan Colegate, with the couple leaving their County Durham home in a camper van in 2014, giving up their jobs after Dan had a health scare.
Dan, 38, has vowed to return to the mountain range to search for his partner.
He said: “Regarding recent media coverage and comments by a member of the French police, my response is to restate my gratitude and respect for the hard work the police forces and the search and rescue teams in both France and Spain have already carried out and plan to continue with in the future.
“I have been in close contact with the lead investigator in both countries since early December.
“Upon reading the recent articles, I contacted the Major in the French police who is in charge of the investigation to ask if these comments reflect the official position of his team. His response was to reassure me that the investigation is ongoing.
“As I've said before, I'm aware of the challenges the police face in this investigation and I trust their abilities and determination.
“For my part, I still intend to return to the area to repeat the intensive searches already carried out as soon as the weather permits this to be done effectively.
“I will also search further afield, scanning across the landscape systematically to rule out the area piece by piece.
"I'm aware that the search and rescue teams plan to also repeat their searches and I will remain in contact with them.”
The former business development manager from Durham does not believe Esther, his partner of 19 years, had an accident or chose to disappear and suspects foul play.
Dan released a 23-page dossier in January which he hopes will help reveal what happened, with theories including Esther was attacked or kidnapped by an armed stranger.
He added: “Finally, I want to reiterate that Esther is an experienced hiker who was carrying suitable equipment in terrain that would not have been a challenge to her.
"She had completed countless similar hikes successfully in the past, never leaving trails and being well aware of her body's needs and limitations.
"If she suffered an accident, for whatever reason, I firmly believe she would have been found on or close to one of the extensive, well-made paths in the area.
"The fact no trace at all was found, despite a wide-ranging and intensive search in good weather before the snow arrived, was frustrating and baffling to those involved in the search at the time. That no other signs have been found elsewhere does not +change the scope or intensity of that search.
"At the moment, those of us who love Esther can only continue with the agonising wait for news.
Anyone with information about Esther can contact the below numbers:
LBT Global Hotline: +44 (0) 800 098 8485
WhatsApp: +44 (0) 7545 826 497
Email: [email protected]