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FILE PHOTO: San Carlo Square is after Juventus fans watching Juventus v Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League Final on a video screen in Turin, Italy stampede. June 3, 2017. REUTERS/Giorgio Perottino/File Photo

(reuters_tickers)

TURIN, Italy (Reuters) - A stampede last year that killed a woman during the screening of a soccer match in the Italian city of Turin was started by thieves using pepper spray to rob their victims, the city's chief prosecutor said on Friday.

On June 3, thousands of Juventus fans were watching their team in the Champions League final against Real Madrid on a giant screen in San Carlo Square.

During the second half of the match, being played in Cardiff, Wales, which Real Madrid went on to win 4-1, video cameras showed a sudden rush in the middle of the crowd, and then a violent surge that flung people against barriers.

The cause of the stampede was not initially clear, but prosecutor Armando Spataro said on Friday it was due members of a criminal gang pepper-spaying people in the crowd before trying to pick their pockets or steal their jewellery.

"Their conduct instigated the situation of panic that caused more than 1,500 injuries and the death of Erika Pioletti," Spataro told a news conference.

At least four of members of the criminal gang "definitely were in the square and they used pepper spray to rob people," Spataro said.

Six men are already in prison, having been picked up for other crimes over the past 10 months. Another is under house arrest. Two of the men may face charges of involuntary manslaughter, the prosecutor said.

(Writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Reuters