The crew of an RAF Hercules which crashed in Iraq killing its pilot from Burley-in-Wharfedale sent a distress signal eight minutes after it took off, an inquest heard.

The content of the signal was not revealed but no further contact was made and the wreckage of the aircraft was located 50 minutes later.

Flight Lieutenant David Stead, 35, was killed with nine colleagues in the crash which was the single largest loss of British life in Iraq since action to topple Saddam Hussein's regime began in 2003.

The cause is still being investigated by the RAF although insurgents claimed at the time that they shot the aircraft down.

An RAF statement read out by Wiltshire coroner David Masters said the Hercules took off at 4.22pm on January 30 from Baghdad en route to a coalition air base in Iraq. At 1630 hours a distress call was received.

At 5.20pm the crash site was located 25 miles from Baghdad. The coroner read out the statement at the opening of the inquest into the deaths of the men, whose aircraft came down on the day Iraq held historic elections. The inquest was opened and adjourned at Trowbridge Magistrates' Court in Wiltshire.

RAF pathologist Wing Commander Graeme Maidment told the coroner that all ten servicemen died from multiple injuries and had to be identified by DNA analysis or dental records.

Relatives of several of the men wept and Michelle Stead, the widow of pilot Ft Lt Stead, fled the court as evidence about body parts and the men's identification was read out.

Flt Lieut Stead, who had just transferred to RAF Lyneham, was a Cadet for five years at the 1224 Wharfedale squadron based in Ashlands Road, Ilkley. His family still live in Burley-in-Wharfedale.

Mr Masters released the bodies so that relatives could make funeral arrangements. The coroner said he was satisfied that the men had been identified and their cause of death was known. He said: "I propose to adjourn these inquests now and I cannot yet say when they will be resumed. There are ongoing investigations. When the results of these investigations are known I will be in a position to make arrangements to resume these inquests."

Earlier this month an interim report from a board of inquiry ruled out causes including sabotage, bird strike, lightning, collision, flight into the ground, obstacle strike, problems with the aircraft's controls, aircraft fatigue, cargo explosion and engine fire.