Found Deceased Spain - Esther Dingley, from UK, missing in the Pyrenees, November 2020 #5

Discussion in 'Located Persons Discussion' started by FrostOwl, Nov 29, 2020.

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  1. Federico_A

    Federico_A Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure this is the work of bearded vultures rather than griffons. They drop bones from a height onto rocks in particular spots like the scree beneath P de la G in order to break them. They then eat the bones (the actual bones, not just the marrow).
    The implication is that not only were the bones carried there from, well, almost anywhere (except from under forest cover), but the vultures have probably been smashing and eating the bones for some time, given the apparent state of the pieces found. I'm sure that griffons also got to the body elsewhere.
    IMO, the presence of the bones beneath P de la Glere doesn't mean that Esther went anywhere near the place herself. I tend to think the whole P de la Glere thing is a false lead in terms of knowing how/where she met her fate.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021


  2. RickshawFan

    RickshawFan Verified Outdoor Recreation Specialist

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    This begs the question whether there were bones from several missing hikers in the same pile. Perhaps it was the vultures' usual drop spot?
     
  3. Federico_A

    Federico_A Well-Known Member

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    I guess they do have favourite drop spots, but there are any number of similar rocky slopes around.
    I haven't heard that there are any other missing persons in the area recently.

    Another slightly lurid theory: If Esther was murdered and buried beneath rocks (perhaps crushing her skull in the process), the murderer, increasingly afraid of the body being found in an endless search, might conceivably go back, pick up some pieces and scatter them at vulture bone-breaking places some distance away - but close to a path, with the intention that they are found - knowing the conclusion would be that Esther had an accident and was eaten by vultures and that the search would be called off and the case closed.
    I hesitate to say it, but if I were a murderer that idea would probably have occurred to me. Perhaps the murderer is also a birdwatcher. A hunter would also know all about the habits of vultures.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021
  4. RedHaus

    RedHaus Well-Known Member

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    RS&BBM

    I agree with you @Federico_A on this point. I also don't think ED attempted an eastward descent through the Port de la Glere. I do think she was risk averse relatively speaking - her own FB blogging tells us she was capable of turning around and backtracking when weather turned bad or the trail was not passable given her equipment (e.g. footwear).

    I am thinking her bones are being disbursed by Griffons. And having observed many bird species in the wild for decades (not Griffons, though) I believe birds generally have favorite feeding or foraging spots. And in the case of Griffons they may have favorite bone-breaking spots. One of them could be the steeps of Port de la Glere.

    But why now as @otto has queried? Why are we starting to see remains now versus last fall during the early search or even in May or June when DC was out there walking nearly everywhere? I think the "cavity" observation by LE / SAR is key to this answer. For whatever reason, IMO, ED ended up in an obscure, well hidden cavity that was protected from the elements. And maybe it was not until the snow and ice melted around that cavity that animals found her remains. And I understand Griffons prefer to wait for other scavengers to eat the flesh before they go after the bones.

    So do we have any sense where the last of the snow and ice melted this summer and spring? On the eastern French slopes between the Port de V and Port de la G, would be one guess. Or it could also be the lakes between those two ports... there are several. After lake ice melted, could ED's body (or parts) have in fact surfaced and washed ashore and as it / they did, animals very efficiently scavenged her remains, while her backpack remains submerged?

    I also wonder about two other nagging questions... 1. how did ED get separated from her pack, since nothing of that has been found yet, and 2. why would ED end up in a cavity so obscured and difficult to find - far off her path, I presume. I think the answers to those questions are not easy to separate and could be the same answer....

    .... Did ED have a violent fall on steep slope that lodged her body under boulders?
    .... Did ED suffer an injury, feared hypothermia, found shelter in a cave or hollow of some sort, and then died?
    .... Did ED escape some sort of threat such as a predator animal (human or non-human) and died where she hid?
    .... Did ED commit suicide in a remote, secluded and hidden location that was protected as a cavity (or lake)?
    .... Was ED murdered - by accident or intentional - and the murderer covered her body and hid her kit (in a lake)?
    So of course this brings us back to the same questions we've been grappling with. But maybe we can focus on where the coldest areas (where snow would remain longest) of her trek were, where "cavities" may be or where her kit could be?
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021
  5. Konstantin

    Konstantin Active Member

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    Yes. Esther either wasn’t sure herself where exactly she was going to go next or she didn’t want to tell Dan her exact route plans.

    I think most likely the former.

    maybe that’s ok in summer when there are more hikers around but in the conditions she was hiking in alone it was very risky to not have a planned route, to let others know it and to have a proper map and gps locator.

    I think Esther just wasn’t aware of the dangers. She wanted to get away. Be in the mountains. She couldn’t bear staying in the gite or whatever it was.

    the details of her plans she texted to Dan — from the top of a mountain mid hike in winter— are extremely vague. Dan himself must know that.
     
  6. Federico_A

    Federico_A Well-Known Member

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    Suicide in a crevice on the west flank of Sauvegarde would explain everything; so would misadventure on the Montagnette path; but murder/concealment in the Benasque valley seems most feasible to me. Maybe I just have a tarnished opinion of humanity.

    Btw, I imagine it is extraordinarily difficult to hide something in a lake without a boat (or an air bed?). It would involve attaching the thing by ropes to heavy rocks and somehow pushing it out and submerging it in the deepest part. You could only wade out with it so far and then it would be visible beneath the surface. And it would have to be done at night to avoid making a fascinating spectacle.
     
  7. RickshawFan

    RickshawFan Verified Outdoor Recreation Specialist

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    Snipped for focus

    In contrast, I think ED did go through the P de la G and start descending on the French side. I don’t think she knew what she was getting into. IMO the choice to go there didn’t strike her as risky. As far as it seems, she didn’t have a paper/Tyvek map. Without one, she would never have been able to anticipate the steepness of the P de la G on the French side.
    A phone would be almost useless for planning or route finding in that area. A. The screen is too small, and wouldn’t have provided enough relevant detail (e.g. the tight contours and gullies); You can’t see enough of it on screen, no matter you’ve dowloaded maps; B. You will likely have been unable to locate yourself because there were major obstacles (e.g. mountains) preventing your phone from locking on to the satellites necessary for GPS; and C. With the recorded temperature (significantly below freezing), there was a likelihood the phone would die, as well as the backup, unless ED knew to keep them next to her body.
    ED may have been mildly risk averse under some conditions (not IMO), but if you don’t have the information to evaluate risk—as she didn’t have—being any kind of “risk averse” is irrelevant. I don’t think she knew how inadequate her summer equipment and worn footwear were for the conditions.
    Paper map, paper map, paper map…..
     
  8. otto

    otto Verified Expert

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    I think Dan had it wrong, that he looked at the texts 4 days later, contacted SAR and told them that she intended to hike from Pic de Sauvegarde at 4 PM to Port de Venasque at 4:30 PM and descend into France, arriving roughly an hour later at Refuge de Venasque (dusk, mountain shadow, weather) - because she is a superior hiker - but not a good enough hiker to author a book with him about hiking mountains.

    I think he flunked, messed up, didn't notice that she was missing for 4 days and then snapped out of it wondering why she wasn't rolling up the driveway. That's when SAR was alerted. It was five days between disappearance and alert. The day after they were alerted, when they started the search, the snow fell.

    The texts tell him that she's staying in place, hiking to the Port de la Glere the following day, might dip into France, might not dip into France. Today, we know she did dip into France and it cost her life.

    "Still in the same area.
    Tomorrow heading for Port de le Glere.
    Might dip into France.
    Hoping Refuge Venasque has a winter room.
    Keep you posted."
    Why did her partner think that still in the same area and hiking to Port de la Glere tomorrow meant immediately entering France to stay at the Refuge de Venasque. She did not say that.

    If SAR had listened to her words rather than the interpretation of her partner, could they have helped sooner?

    According to Dan, Esther had phone signal just downhill from sleeping at the Refuge de Venasque, but SAR determined that there was no evidence that she spent time at the Refuge de Venasque. Therefore, Dan's estimation of when Esther had access to wifi is in question.

    I don't believe that she was a risk taker, but I do believe that after her 20 year relationship, she wanted to prove herself as a mountain hiker.
     
  9. otto

    otto Verified Expert

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    I think differently, that the equipment will be found somewhere near the Port de la Glere.

    SAR does believe that the animals or vultures found her body nearby - either on or nearby the scree cliff hiking trail at Port de la Glere.

    "When there is a disappearance in the mountains and the victim cannot be found, then it is because we have not been able to find consistency with his itinerary. It is also necessary to count on luck to find traces of the person, often several months or even several years later. For Esther, the place has been visited many times. ...

    There, I think it was animals that transported these remains that we think are human. But in my opinion, Esther did not fall very far from it.
    Disparition d’Esther Dingley : "Il faut aussi de la chance pour retrouver la personne"
     
  10. otto

    otto Verified Expert

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    Murdered by whom - a hiker who decided to defy France lockdown and Esther's ambiguous route?

    Perhaps the skull was broken by birds dropping the skull from in the air. The jaw seems to be intact since dental records have been requested.

    If you were a murderer, would you hike solo in Winter to 2400 meters in the Pyrenees to find a victim?
     
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  11. otto

    otto Verified Expert

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    Worst case scenario is that she couldn't climb and didn't have the energy to turn back, so she huddled in place, expecting her partner to alert help. After 5 days, it was too late. If the vultures descended, what did she do to prevent her head from being carried off until 8 months later?
     
  12. Steve13

    Steve13 Former Member

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    Interesting new line of inquiry that, Federico. Maybe Vicki Weifsield, the author of this book, could yield some useful thoughts on this case? I wonder where she did her research?
    I thought long and hard about this. My only conclusion was that if a high enough platform of rocks could have been built at the side of the water, a long rope attached to the weight at the end could have been spun in the manner of a hammer thrower. I haven't done the maths, but if the platform were, say, 50 feet high, the spinning fulcrum stable enough to gather speed and the rope, say, 20 feet long, it might be possible? It would require a LOT of practice beforehand, though, and of course the platform would have to be taken apart at the end and spread out. It would require quite a bit of prep in and remediation work, obv, so you'd probably need a fair-sized team.
     
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  13. otto

    otto Verified Expert

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    Suicide is not off the table. Given Esther's state of mind, her reluctance to return to corporate London life after 6 years on the road, her desire to continue a nomadic life, her weakness with food prep for hikes witnessed by strangers in the days leading to her disappearance, her ambiguity with routes and the predictable delay before SAR was alerted.

    Suicide has always seemed a possibility for me. Sure, perhaps she messed up hiking up or down the dangerous slope at the Port de la Glere, but why was she there in the first place?
     
  14. Konstantin

    Konstantin Active Member

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    maybe Dan was respecting Esther’s desire for some time alone.

    it seems like a bit of a perfect storm. Lockdown, Esther being anxious or unhappy about her lifestyle possibly changing, relationship issues (everyone has them and it’s nobody’s fault), not really understanding or not wanting to — because she desperately wanted to be on the mountains— that winter conditions could be treacherous, not taking the right equipment, possibly hoping to meet others on the mountain she could connect with (maybe asking for fruit was also an attempt just to talk to someone, she’d just been hanging out with some new friends a few days earlier hasn’t she?). Maybe the BBC article— which she surely had mentioned to her by Dan — made her also anxious as it talked about a relationship she wasn’t sure about any more. I believe Esther was under a lot of pressure. Pressure does lead people to make mistakes and bad decisions. And she was alone with no one to talk to.

    so she just attempted too much maybe because of so many factors.
     
  15. IrisElizabeth

    IrisElizabeth Well-Known Member

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    Turning off the phone would make total sense, not just to conserve battery, but if she really was on a break from her relationship and wanted some true alone time what better way to not be disturbed than turning the phone off? I hope the DNA results come back soon so her mother and other family know either way. I can see why DC is determined to present their life as completely idyllic if there is the possibility that she turned the phone off to stop any more contact and this had such tragic results.

    Interesting discussion upthread about the book authoring anomaly. If as DC says she was the more experienced hiker then why wasn't she a co-author? Perhaps she really wasn't interested in monetising their lifestyle and this was a deliberate choice by ED to not be involved. This would explain why she chose to go hiking when the BBC article came out instead of heading back to civilisation and capitalising on the publicity - surely this was the perfect once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to drive up the book sales.

    I also wonder what was said in the final phone call between them - on one hand it is none of our business, but on the other hand it could give a real insight about her state of mind - the one-sided text messages that were published seem to me to be quite vague and almost dismissive, like saying 'ok I'm off now I'll be in touch when I can' but the texts obviously rang some kind of alarm bells with DC as he ignored those cues and phoned her to speak with her directly. If she then turned her phone off to prevent any further contact and this meant she could not then easily call for help or be traced via her phone's signal then that is just truly heartbreaking.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021
  16. sarahboirin

    sarahboirin On Time Out

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    That translation from the French can also be "Esther didn't fall very far from there" ie Port de la Glere.

    Maybe she was trying to prove to herself she could do "it", maybe her plan was to write her own book or just find peace. If the remains are ED I hope she is now at peace and her family and loved ones can find some closure.
     
  17. mrjitty

    mrjitty Well-Known Member

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    i think she will be found in the area of the latest find.

    The difference is SARs can now do a more careful search in a narrower area, and in particular identify where she may have ended up.

    We may never know why she was off the trail - but the condition of the body may reveal clues - e.g. obvious injuries vs getting lost.
     
  18. Federico_A

    Federico_A Well-Known Member

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    50 foot high stone platform - why didn't I think of it?

    There is a simpler way though. Tie a sleeping bag to the body. Swim with the body in lifesaver fashion to the centre of the lake and leave it floating there. Then make repeated journeys swimming back and forth to fill up the sleeping bag with stones until it sinks.
     
  19. Kike76

    Kike76 Active Member

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    Nothing really new in my post but here are two interesting maps to compare. One of these links at least has already been posted. One is the routes that DC had walked at the time of publishing. The other is a detailed map of the area which is zoom-able. No clear direct route from the Pic Sauveguarde to Port de Glere along the ridge without a significant perhaps obviously risky decent. However there are other routes down (French side direction) from Pic de Sauvegarde, particularly a path that goes to Lac de la Montagnette and from there there at least one marked path over to the Port de Glere area on the French side.
    There are so many possibilities. She was late in the day and if she sprained her ankle or broke a limb, or even just dislocated a shoulder then she might have had significant difficulties descending and perhaps opted to go descend any way possible and that might have taken her to this area. Or, she might have decided that she liked the idea of camping there. Or, as mentioned by someone before she might have become ill (COVID, appendicitis) and might have made some incorrect map decisions. Or, without proper scrutiny of the map she might have mistaken the Lac de la Montagnette for the lake at port de Venasque and headed down there only to find herself caught short of daylight.

    As hypothermia is a very strong possibility, and that could have happened absolutely anywhere after a fall and a bad ankle sprain, she might have got herself in a hidden position that you could literally walk past and miss.

    It is also entirely possible she walked the entire loop DC says was planned via the French side back to Port de Glere with her phone switched off or in airplane mode to save battery or for whatever reason and then had an accident on the way up to port de Glere.

    Clearly DC has searched the Chemin de l'Impeatrice route extensively but less so the Port de Glere side (although he has clearly searched there to some degree).

    Esther Dingley: Partner vows to keep searching for missing hiker
    Randonnée Port de Venasque par le chemin de l'Impératrice | rando-marche
     
  20. Federico_A

    Federico_A Well-Known Member

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    It's a cunning idea. Birdwatchers are normally such decent folk that simply being one could be the perfect alibi.

    Hunters, on the other hand, IMO are already some way along the psycho scale.
     
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