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In the short story Death by Drowning, Joe Ellis is a carpenter and a lodger of Mrs Bartlett. He is well spoken of by many in the village. According to Mrs Bartlett, he doesn't drink and takes pride in his work.

He is besotted with Rose Emmott, the drowning victim although she did not seem to care for him. He might have been considered a plausible suspect especially as he knew that Rose was pregnant with the child of Rex Sandford. However Inspector Drewitt who knows him says he is a quiet fellow who would suffer in silence. Anything Rose did was right in his eyes. He himself told police that if Rose had come back to him, he would have married her and looked after her. Still, Sir Henry Clithering believed that the Joe Ellises of the world are the most vulnerable. They trusted blindly and for this reason, the shock of discovery would be greater. Mrs Bartlett gave him an alibi for the time of the drowning but Jimmy Brown thought he saw someone near the spot whistling a tune which he always whistled.

Joe Ellis is described as "an amiable young giant": tall broad-shouldered, very good looking in a rustic way, with shy, blue eyes and a good-tempered smile.

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