Birthmark on NYC headless corpse matches missing filmmaker Ross McDonnell

A distinctive birthmark helped police link the headless armless corpse that washed up on a Rockaways beach to missing Irish filmmaker Ross McDonnell, police said Tuesday.

Cops are still waiting for a DNA match, but believe the remains belong to the 44-year-old Emmy-award winning visual artist, who was reported missing more than two weeks ago, NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny said.

“We matched a birth mark on the body that was discovered (to McDonnell),” Kenny said. “We also have photographs of him wearing the same swimsuit.”

McDonnell was a fan of so-called “wild swimming” and frequently swam in rough frigid waters, cops said.

A fisherman reeled in McDonnell’s mangled torso and legs near the Silver Gull Beach Club in a section of the federally-owned Gateway National Recreation Area Friday afternoon, said cops.

Friends heard about the discovery on the Citizen app and raced to scene, where they showed cops photos of McDonnell, including his birthmark and swimwear.

The corpse was wearing red Adidas shorts seen in the photos friends provided, Kenny said.

The body’s head and arms were missing but Kenny believe the remains were mangled by the rough surf, which he said churns “like a washing machine.”

“The surf over there is very rough, the undertow,” he said.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny is pictured during a press conference in the Bronx on Oct. 5, 2023. (Theodore Parisienne for New York Daily News)

In the hours before he disappeared on Nov. 4, McDonnell, who worked in his native Dublin as well as Mexico and Afghanistan, had taken photos at an anti-war march in New York City and attended a show, longtime friends said.

When no one could find him, friends reported him missing on Nov. 6. Cops found his bike in the Rockaways at Fort Tilden on Nov. 9.

“The bike was secured on a rack and locked, which means he intended to come back for it,” Kenny said.

A bloodhound tracked the director’s scent to a rock jetty, where clothing that was the same brand and size that he wore were found.

McDonnell is an acclaimed photographer, director, cinematographer and producer. In 2021, he won an Emmy for cinematography on the Showtime docuseries “The Trade” about the opioid epidemic, his online biography states.

In 2018, he was nominated for a director Emmy for the feature-length documentary “Elian” produced by CNN films.

Kenny said his detectives worked with the Irish Consulate to locate McDonnell’s family and receive a DNA sample they are attempting to match for a final confirmation.

McDonnell’s family was awaiting the results, longtime friend Gene Gallerano told The Irish Times Tuesday. McDonnell’s family has not made a statement.

“At this stage, we’re just respecting the wishes of Ross’s family,” Gallerano said. “It’s been a heart-breaking time for them, for all of us.”

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