In January 1911, Churchill showed his tougher side when he made a controversial visit to a police siege in London, with two robbers holed up in a building. Churchill's degree of participation is still in some dispute: Some accounts have him going to the scene only to see for himself what was going on; others state that he allegedly gave directions to police on how to best storm the building. What is known is that the house caught fire during the siege and Churchill prevented the fire brigade from extinguishing the flames, stating that he thought it better to "let the house burn down," rather than risk lives rescuing the occupants. The bodies of the two robbers were found inside the charred ruins.
The above-quoted passage did appear in The River War when it was first published as a two-volume set in 1899, but the selection was removed when the book was condensed into one volume and republished in 1902. While the one-volume abridged edition of The River War is still readily available, as of January 2015 the original two-volume 1899 version is much harder to find, a condition which may have led to confusion about the origins of the quote in question. However, the Churchill Centre has confirmed these words were indeed written by Winston Churchill.