A mother of two has won a top award for her crime-fighting invention.

Deb Leary, aged 42, was named Female Inventor of the Year after she came up with the idea of clear stepping plates for investigators to use in crime scenes.

The plates allow police and forensic teams to make their way through the scene without disturbing vital clues.

Until now they have relied on solid aluminium plates which are heavy and have to be moved if a photograph is needed of what is underneath.

Mrs Leary, from Tamworth, Staffordshire, came up with the idea while attending a conference with policeman husband Richard, aged 48, in 2001.

It took her just two years to produce and sell the first of her plastic plates, even though she had no previous experience of business or manufacturing.

She was named winner at the British Female Inventors and Innovators Awards in London last night.

There were eight runners-up in the competition, organised by the Global Women Inventors and Innovators Network.

Among the ideas which narrowly missed out were an inflatable travel cot, a skin patch which boosts randy thoughts in women and a portable pole-dancing kit.

Mrs Leary, who has a son aged 21 and a 17-year-old daughter, had the following advice for other women inventors: "The only barriers are the barriers that you create yourself. If you have an idea and the belief in it, do your level best to carry it though."