POLICE investigating the disappearance of a British hiker are analysing bones found near the mountain summit where she last made contact.
Esther Dingley vanished in November last year while climbing the 8,796ft Pico Salvaguardia in the Pyrenees.
A mountain runner raised the alarm on Friday afternoon after discovering what he believed could be the remains of a body.
Spanish police visited the area but later alerted their French counterparts after finding the spot was just over the border.
Officers are now trying to confirm whether they are human bones and, if so, who they could belong to.
But 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.