A successful Solihull businessman apparently ran into the path of an articulated lorry weeks after telling a colleague he wanted to kill himself because of pressures at work, an inquest was told.

James Byrne, aged 50, a managing director at the Kier construction group, was killed instantly on March 21 on the A14 in Northamptonshire.

An open verdict was recorded by the Northamptonshire Coroner Anne Pember yesterday after Mr Byrne's wife Mary said she was "100 per cent" certain he would never take his own life.

Patricia Brown, a colleague of Mr Byrne, told the Northampton inquest the "strong, capable man" she worked with had complained of being under increasing pressure at work.

"His self esteem was suffering and he was no longer as confident as he had been," she said.

She added that the father-of-two had tried to take an overdose of pills in a supermarket car park and had twice told her: "I may even just stop the car and walk into traffic, but it needs courage to kill yourself and I do not have that courage."

At another time, the inquest heard, Mr Byrne told her: "I just feel stressed, as though I am having a breakdown."

Witnesses to the crash on the eastbound dual carriageway near Kelmarsh described Mr Byrne parking his blue Mercedes in a layby and leaving his driverside door open before moving into the path of a Scania HGV driven by trucker Michael Marshall.

Mr Marshall told the hearing at Northampton General Hospital: "He ran out in front of my lorry. He looked at me the whole time, right up until the lorry hit him."

Passing motorist Ivan Cobb added: "He was looking at the approaching traffic, it was almost as though he was timing his run out to be struck by the HGV."

But Mrs Byrne told the hearing her husband had never mentioned a wish to end his life, and "thrived on the challenge" of his career which began as a quantity surveyor.

"He had everything to live for," she said. "He would not do that."

Recording the open verdict, the coroner said: "James Byrne had everything to live for.

"I am not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that James Byrne wished to end his life. On the other hand, having heard the evidence, I cannot presume that the death was accidental."

Kier has an annual turnover of £1.62 billion and has been behind some of Birmingham city centre's major construction projects. They the £39 million Number One Colmore Square building, the £9 million interchange place near the Old Contemptibles pub, and the £4 million refurbishment of the College of Law.