Police in Switzerland have arrested the man they say was the ringleader of the Cologne New Year sex attacks after he was spotted shoplifting in a German border town.

The 19-year-old was arrested after he fled from a store where he and a friend were in the process of stealing cigarettes and groceries.

The pair ran from the premises in Konstanz in Germany across the nearby border to Kreuzlingen in Switzerland where they were arrested after a store detective followed them and alerted local police officers.

The pilfered goods were found in the suspected Cologne attacker’s rucksack after the arrest on Wednesday.

A check on his identity revealed he was one of the ‘main suspects’ in the frenzied sexual assaults and robberies carried out on hundreds of women on December 31 in and around the main station in Cologne.

Police said that migrant men, most of them asylum seekers, were responsible for the attacks which caused an earthquake in German attitudes to migrants reflected in a huge surge for anti-immigrant political parties.

The 19-year-old was found to be the target of a Europol arrest warrant for his behaviour in Cologne on the night of the attacks.

Police in Konstanz said they recognised the man from a TV clip of suspects that was circulated to police stations across Germany.

He remains on remand in Switzerland as Germany negotiates for his return to face justice in Cologne.

More than 500 women have now come forward to say they were sexually assaulted during Cologne’s New Year festivities, with the majority of suspects of North African origin.

Around 1,000 mainly young men gathered Cologne’s at central train station on New Year’s Eve, according to witnesses, some of whom broke off into small groups that groped and robbed women.

There have been complaints of assaults by alleged migrants in half a dozen German cities, as well as Austria, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland.

After reports that the attacks were carried out by ‘mainly Arabic and North African men’, protests have been held all over Europe to limit migration into the EU.

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