A Salt Lake City construction worker has positively identified Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapper Brian David Mitchell as the stalker he saw outside her home days before the kidnapping — and he charges that cops bungled the case.

Secret witness Corey Dennis says that on three occasions he tried to report spotting the deranged drifter, but cops never called him back. He believes the information he could have provided to a police sketch artist might have resulted in the arrest of Mitchell months ago, and saved Elizabeth from some of the horrors she endured.

In our July 16, 2002 issue, Corey described a “suspicious looking 50-year-old guy with a grayish beard and wearing a gray jogging suit” lingering right in front of the Smarts’ ritzy $1.2 million home.

Dennis now reveals in an exclusive ENQUIRER interview that the strange-looking misfit he spotted is indeed Brian Mitchell, who’s been charged with kidnapping Elizabeth from her bedroom last June.

“It’s all very eerie. I still get chills when I think that the guy I saw last summer was the guy who kidnapped Elizabeth, ” revealed Dennis.

“My wife and I were at home and I was sitting there watching the incredible news coverage that Elizabeth was found alive.

“Obviously, I was happy that she was found after all that time. But my mood changed when they flashed her kidnapper’s photo on the screen.

“I was angry all over again because Brian Mitchell was the same guy I saw outside the Smart home on May 31, just days before she was kidnapped!

“I remember it like it was yesterday. I called the Salt Lake City Police Department a total of three times to tell them that I was in the home before Elizabeth was kidnapped and saw a strange bearded man outside her house. I said at the time that the guy was wearing a gray jogging suit. But it could easily have been the long johns he was wearing when he was arrested in San Diego.

“If the cops had questioned me anytime during their investigation or at least showed me some photos or a lineup of guys, I would have easily been able to point him out.”

But a frustrated Dennis says no one got back to him.

“Finally about a month ago, a detective called and said they were following up on a laborer who may have worked at the house — a Spanish guy named ‘Manuel.’ They asked me if I knew him.

“I said, ‘Now you’re calling back? I called you eight months ago!’ I told the detective I never heard of any Spanish guy named Manuel. I reminded him about me trying to get the police to check out the guy I saw. He said he would — but even then I never heard back.

“As it turns out, the guy I saw was Mitchell, who calls himself Immanuel. I guess there never was a Spanish Manuel.

“If I get called to trial to describe who I saw outside the Smart home, it will be just like I told The ENQUIRER last June.

“It was definitely Brian Mitchell. Elizabeth’s father Ed and I may be very different, but we also have a lot in common.

“I have three children and I can only imagine what private hell he and his family must have been put through.”

Adding to Corey’s outrage is the way he says local police treated his mother-in-law Janice White.

Janice — who had helped in the initial searches for Elizabeth — also called Salt Lake City police on Corey’s behalf. And like him, she says she got nowhere.

“No one cared enough to return Corey’s calls or mine,” Janice told The ENQUIRER.

“Corey could have described the bearded weirdo to a sketch artist days after the kidnapping and the entire country would have been on the lookout for him months ago.

“It was an appalling outrage then and more of an outrage now that it turns out the guy Corey saw is the kidnapper they have in custody.”

When contacted by The ENQUIRER about Corey’s story, a spokesperson for the Salt Lake City Police Department said: “I haven’t heard of this guy, though we did get many tips. For now, I’ll just say no comment.”