Detective Colman Akande In ‘The Woman In The Wall,’ Explained: Who Was Ignatius McCullum?

The Woman in the Wall, apart from being the tale of the torturous life the women of the Magdalene laundries were put through, also focuses on a man who was born in one of these institutions. His faith in the church is shaken as the mystery surrounding the murder of a priest opens Pandora’s box.

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Spoilers Ahead


What Did Detective Colman Find About Father Sheehan?

Detective Colman Akande works in Dublin and joins the team that is investigating the murder of Priest Percy Sheehan. Colman seems to have known Father Sheehan all his life, which makes solving this murder personal for him. Colman is keen on finding out what could be the motive behind the killing of this man, whom he reveres a lot. The investigation takes a strange turn when the priest’s car is found just outside the town of Kilkinure, which makes Colman suspect the place had something to do with his murder.

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The town from the outside seems like a quaint place, and Colman is surrounded by a police officer who is laid-back and constantly reminds him that this place is hardly known for scandals. He claims this all while there are stories of Magdalene Laundries being discussed by the newspapers and the television media. The local police’s ignorance proves that they are in denial about the whole subject of the church taking advantage of young and vulnerable teenagers for three decades up until the 1990s.

Detective Colman Akande starts questioning people in the town about Father Sheehan, and he happens to come across totally different stories about his mentor. The women especially let him know how much they despised him, the role he played in making their lives hell as teenagers, and how they were mistreated during their time with the convent and the laundry.

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This comes across as a shock to Colman because the very statement made by these women jolts his trust in the faith he was raised in. He grew up believing in the church and the clergy, and this revelation made him livid at the fact that he was completely blindsided by what was happening behind closed doors. Colman was also furious to notice that the local police officer, Sergeant Aidan Massey, is nonchalant about the truths that are coming out. It also makes him wonder why the whole town refuses to believe in the fact that a major scandal happened, and he’s perplexed that no one seems to be affected by the revelations.


How Did Lorna And Colman Unravel The Secrets Of The Convent?

Detective Colman Akande has a recurring dream about running through a tunnel, which he has been unable to decipher for all this time. He also reveals after a panic attack that he was also born in a ‘mother-and-child home’ and was later adopted by his current parents. These revelations about the church make him wonder if other crimes were carried out that never made it to the media.

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As the investigation into the murder progresses, he comes across Lorna Brady, who initially seems shady to him, and she is found in the most peculiar of places around the town. It makes him wonder if she is an accomplice to the priest’s murder because she was found blowing up the deceased man’s car. Even though Lorna’s intentions were different behind this act, Colman believes this was done to erase all the evidence in the car. Colman and Lorna soon start getting along as he learns very quickly that she is a sleepwalker, which was caused by the trauma she was put through by the church as she worked with the laundry when she was a pregnant teenager. He witnesses her meltdown, which makes him believe that Lorna deserves closure as much as he does.

Lorna is on the other end of the spectrum, a mother looking for her child. Meanwhile, Colman, though he has some memories from the convent, is not keen on finding out who his biological mother is. These two people from two different states of mind come together to find out that almost 298 kids from Lorna’s convent alone died. As Lorna lost faith in the church 30 years ago, Colman also slowly started losing hope as well.

It is interesting to see the same story from two different perspectives. There was a point where the audience assumed Colman could be Lorna’s kid, and she was not told the truth at childbirth about the gender of her infant. Thankfully, that did not happen because it would have made the narrative cheesy. Just like Lorna, at this juncture, Colman is also deeply affected by the kind of revelation that comes out.


Why Did Detective Colman Discover?

Colman Akande is briefly removed from the investigation, which does not stop him from digging up dirt on the convent. He is shocked to come across a death certificate issued in his name. He reports this to Lorna because she came across her daughter Agnes’ death certificate—news that made her miserable. Colman proved that the certificate of death issued was fake, and it raises some hope in her that maybe her daughter is alive.

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Sadly, Colman’s illusions keep breaking as he and Lorna dig deeper into the other crimes that were being carried out by the clergy in the name of religion and faith. Massey speaks about feeling guilty about taking the girls to the convent without questioning the system or the order. He also claims that nobody in the town spoke up against the church, which speaks to the influence they held over the people and the community. This also makes the audience question why anyone allows religion to be so powerful that the actions of these bodies and functionaries are never questioned. Slowly, the faith was also decimated when the Magdalene Laundries scandal was published.


Who Was Ignatius McCullum?

Colman Akande deduces that the children were given to well-to-do families, and in return, some amount of money was obtained as a donation to the convent. There is no end to the number of shocks that this investigation keeps throwing at Colman. He was upset to learn that he was a part of this system as well. His mother had to pay an amount as a donation to make sure she got to adopt him. He also learns from his mother about his being segregated in the convent because of the color of his skin. The truth is indeed stranger than fiction, and in this case, Colman finally comes to terms with the fact that his fight is against the system and he wants to bring the perpetrators to justice.

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He learns from his mother the name of Ignatius McCullum, the man who was the facilitator between the convent headed by Father Sheehan and Colman’s family. Colman soon learns that Ignatius McCullum is James Coyle, who has reinvented himself as the head of a charity organization, Eadrom Group, that wants the women who were a part of the laundries to be compensated. James Coyle seems to be closing all the loopholes that would connect him to the child trafficking which he helped the church facilitate for thirty years. Colman wanted to arrest Coyle, but his employee was asked to take the fall instead of him. He was quick to realize the system was rotten to the core, and there was no way a recovery could be expected. Colman was finally coming to terms with this reality.

Colman Akande ended up softening up to Lorna because he realized that, as a mother, she was put through a lot thanks to the horrifying practices that were normalized for decades. He wanted to make sure Lorna was not charged with the murder of Aoife Cassidy because he feels Lorna has been through a lot in this lifetime. Lorna was probably his gateway to understanding that the church and its power were all lies. This prompts him to look for Lorna’s daughter. He probably wanted her wish to be fulfilled, and he used his contacts to find out Lorna’s daughter was in America. Colman probably sees a motherly figure in Lorna, which made him go out of his way to help her find peace and joy.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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