Torso found on NYC beach linked to missing Irish filmmaker Ross McDonnell: NYPD


The headless, armless torso that washed up on a Queens beach last week likely belongs to acclaimed Irish filmmaker and photographer Ross McDonnell, who police now say drowned while going “wild swimming” in the ocean.

Friends of McDonnell’s identified a distinctive birthmark and red Adidas swim trunks found on the remains as matching those of the 44-year-old Emmy winner, who was last seen leaving his Brooklyn home more than two weeks ago, NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny said Tuesday.

Police are still waiting on the medical examiner to test McDonnell’s DNA, but believe the Irishman — who loved to “wild swim” in the ocean or other natural bodies of water — went for a late-night dip at about 10:30 p.m. at one of his favorite spots near Fort Tilden Beach on Nov. 4, Kenny said.

Despite his prowess in the water, McDonnell vanished under the waves that night.

“He was known to do this, and it appears he drowned,” Kenny told reporters.

A fisherman found the dismembered corpse in front of the Silver Gull Beach Club, near Breezy Point on the Rockaway peninsula, on Friday.

“The body was discovered with the head and arms both gone, which would be an indication that the surf over there is very rough,” Kenny said.

Police believe the torso that washed up on a Queens beach Friday may be missing Irish filmmaker Ross McDonnell.
Ross McDonnell / Facebook
A Dublin native, McDonnell often traveled abroad for work.
Ross McDonnell / Facebook

“The way it was described to me was the churning of a washing machine,” the chief continued. “The body going back and forth and hitting the rocks could have caused the limbs and the head to be removed.”

Authorities don’t suspect foul play.

McDonnell’s bike was found locked up at Fort Tilden Beach on Nov. 7, indicating that he intended to come back for it, Kenny said.

“According to friends, he would do this at times,” Kenny said. “He would go away, for sometimes days at a time, to go out and do his thing.”

His disappearance shook close friends like Gene Gallerano, who told The Irish Times last week that nobody knew much about what happened.

McDonnell had likely headed to Fort Tilden Beach just before his disappearance.
Peter Gerber

“He was last seen last Saturday night; the alarm was sounded on Sunday. We don’t know much more than that,” Gallerano said. “It’s been a very, very emotionally heavy week.”

McDonnell vanished from his Brooklyn home earlier this month.
Ross McDonnell / Facebook

At about noon on Nov. 17, cops got a call about a human torso, its legs still attached, lying on the sand on the popular beach in southern Queens, police said.

The body’s grisly state meant authorities couldn’t immediately tell how the person had died, or even their age and gender.

But clues led cops to the corpse’s identity.

A bloodhound from the US Park Police tracked the scent to the edge of a rock jetty, where cops found some of McDonnell’s clothing, Kenny said.

Cops have not definitively identified McDonnell yet — they are waiting on DNA evidence, the NYPD said.
Peter Gerber
McDonnell’s bike was found locked up on the beach days after his disappearance, indicating he was going to come back, cops said.
Ross McDonnell / Facebook

Friends who gathered at the site after learning authorities had recovered a body brought photos — one of which showed McDonnell wearing the same bathing suit found on the torso, while another showed a birthmark of his that matched one on the remains, according to the chief.

Police were still trying to pull video from the marine park that might show McDonnell heading toward the waves, Kenny added.

A Dublin native who often traveled abroad, McDonnell took home an Emmy in 2021 for his cinematography work on the Showtime series “The Trade.”

His debut feature film, “Colony,” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and won the IDFA First Feature Award as well as an Irish Film and Television Award Nomination, according to an online bio. 

McDonnell was shortlisted for the world’s pre-eminent photography award “Prix Pictet” during its 2019 cycle, themed “Hope.”

He’d been nominated for another Emmy in 2018 for directing the documentary “Elian,” produced by CNN Films, BBC and Jigsaw Productions.

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