Four Iraqi policemen were seen acting suspiciously near the scene of a roadside bomb which killed a British soldier, an inquest has heard.
Chris Hickey was described as the "epitome of a professional soldier"
The officers were sitting in a vehicle just 50m from the blast which killed Sergeant Chris Hickey, 30, of Bradford, and injured several others.
Sgt Hickey, of the 1st Battalion The Coldstream Guards, was on foot patrol in Basra when the bomb went off.
A verdict of unlawful killing we recorded at the inquest in Harrogate.
Coroner Geoff Fell said there was no evidence to suggest the Iraqi police were complicit in the death but expressed disappointment in their "evasive" behaviour.
The inquest in Harrogate heard the officers were interviewed immediately after the bombing, but senior commanders decided there was not enough evidence to detain them.
But the group were not wearing matching uniforms, their car was not properly marked and they could not give basic information about their police station.
Mr Fell said: "It is very unfortunate that they sat back and didn't get involved. I think they could have made some effort."
He added their presence near the scene of the bomb blast seemed "a little bit suspicious".
The coroner praised Sgt Hickey, saying he carried out a "textbook" mission and his actions probably saved the lives of colleagues.
The soldier was just days from completing his tour of duty and returning home. He had served in Iraq for six months and was handing over to a new regiment on the night he died.
After the hearing his widow, Gemma Hickey, condemned the "cowards" who killed her husband.
She said in a statement: "The five years I had with Chris were the happiest of my life.
"I feel privileged to have been lucky enough to have shared them with him.
"It is a tragedy that a person as 'big' as Chris has had his life taken from him in such a cowardly and underhand way, by the very people he set out to help.
"It is a bitter pill to swallow.
"One thing that does give me comfort is Chris and the other servicemen and women who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan will always be loved and remembered, which cannot be said for the cowards who killed him."