motorway night
REUTERS/Steven Shi

A Swiss driver has been convicted of negligent homicide for killing a suicidal woman he did not see lying on the motorway in the dark last year.

The court in Biel, a town 16 miles north of Bern, ruled on Tuesday (20 June) that the man was travelling too fast and issued him with a fine for driving into the woman who was lying on the A6 motorway at around 5am (4am BST) on 8 May 2016.

The woman had argued with her partner at a party that evening and had run away. In a phone call to her partner, she said that she intended to commit suicide, the court heard.

The accused was driving at 100km/hr, within the Swiss motorway limit of 120km/hr, according to the newspaper Berner Zeitung. His defence lawyer said that he had not been drinking and was not distracted by his phone.

But he did not see the woman until it was too late. When he spotted something on the road, he tried to brake and swerve, but was unable to avoid impact. He told the court that he thought he had hit an animal and only realised he struck a person when the woman's partner and friend, who had been looking for her, appeared on the road.

The man said he had suffered from depression since the incident. "I am not a perpetrator, but also a victim," he told the court.

Judge Elisabeth Ochsner told him that he should have changed his speed in the dark to allow himself enough time to stop in case he saw someone on the road. "Drivers always have to reckon with people on the road. Why they are there does not matter," she said.

She handed him a suspended 15-day fine and an additional fine of 210 francs (£170). He will also have to pay 7,800 francs in court costs (£6,338).

It is not the first time a suicide victim was accidentally killed in road accident in Switzerland.

In August, a 49-year-old woman lying on the motorway was hit by several vehicles, including a lorry. A criminal investigation is ongoing.

In 2015, a police officer was acquitted of causing death by negligence after running over a man who had passed out on the motorway. The officer was acquitted after the judge ruled that the man's presence on the road was a "completely exceptional and unpredictable situation."